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Early beet yields have been strong with surprisingly good sugar, considering the lack of sunshine – Arable Farming – Darryl Shailes

We managed to get out of the Waveney Valley last month and visit our daughter who lives in the Otztal Valley in Austria ...

Like many families, we’ve not been able to see her for nearly two years due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and have been maintaining contact by the various apps that are available.

The journey is always a long one as we went via the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. We then drove for around 10 hours to get to where she lives, but it was all soon forgotten when we got there.

The potato harvest was in full swing when we were there, but a huge contrast to the scale in the UK. No three-row self-propelled harvesters in sight. The ‘kartoffel’ fields were in among the grass meadows being grazed by cows, goats and sheep and most wouldn’t have been more than an acre or so.

The sight of new, single row harvesters with about four people working on a picking table going into tonne boxes was very interesting though.

Another contrast was the cows calving and sheep lambing in autumn. They graze on the mountain meadows all summer and are brought inside during winter. The Austrian farmers seem to be prosperous, considering the scale of their operations.

Bruising issues

There had been plenty of rain in Otztal in August and early September, so hopefully they won’t have had the bruising issues many UK growers are facing in potatoes this season. The dry weather here meant crops were desiccated when soils were drier than normal, hence the low turgor of tubers.

This can lead to bruising at lifting, which is difficult to change once desiccation is started. The recent rains will help, with more soil left on webs at harvest to act as cushioning, but the real damage is already done. Another factor of the season has been slow stolon release and skin set on some varieties, so patience will be needed, especially where there are some bacterial issues in the canopy before crops are lifted into store.

Early beet yields have been strong, with surprisingly good sugar, considering the lack of sunshine during August and September. Cercospora is now appearing in many crops, thankfully much later and less aggressively than last season.

Over the last few days, I’ve been looking around beet and potato fungicide trials and, as always, there is always something to see, even if it’s not what you’re expecting.

In potatoes it has been how quickly alternaria has come in during the first weeks of October and how little effect the modem blight fungicides have on it. The odd plot with some mancozeb in the programme has fared much better. However, the top blight actives, such as oxathiapiprolin and others, including fluopicolide + propamocarb, mandipropamid and cyazofamid, have little or no effect and the haulm is now defoliated with alternaria, whereas the blight control is as we expect from the different actives on show.

In beet it is very easy to see that the products based on cyproconazole are having the least effect on cercospora compared to triazoles that have had less exposure to the disease in the UK. This is borne out by work done in the US where they are able to demonstrate the benefit of different triazoles even though they are very similar in the cercospora control they offer.

The control appears to be strongly dependent on the historical exposure the disease has had to the various different triazoles, not just inherent activity. So, with cyproconazole going in the next year it is reassuring to know we have good actives already approved, or coming shortly, to manage this damaging disease in sugar beet over the coming seasons.

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