Well what a difference a month makes. It was very dry when I wrote my last column and we were off on holiday. As we travelled across the UK into northern France, Belgium and Luxembourg, everywhere was the same.
Even in the hills, the grass and maize were brown and the grazing looking pretty thin. It wasn't until we got past Stuttgart, heading towards Austria, that all of a sudden, the grass got greener and the maize was looking better.
That part of Germany tends to get its rain from south and east, so the lack of mid-Atlantic depressions did not affect them.
Then in Norfolk, on September 24, the rain came and October 14 was the first dry day since. Now it is raining again and we had 68mm last Sunday. I did say last month that due to the vagaries of the UK weather this could break and we could be desperate for dry days for drilling. If only I could have predicted the Euromillions numbers too.
The potato harvest has gone from difficult dry conditions to difficult wet conditions, with growers on sand being able to lift, where others on heavier soils are really struggling. In the run-up to harvest there was a bit of blight starting to show in some crops but with most crops now burnt off, for the last time with Reglone (diquat), it's not an issue.
The announcement from Bayer that it has put on hold sales of Monceren (pencycuron) due to a change in MRL means that the remaining potato seed treatment products all need to be applied either on a roller table, or by an on-planter applicator, as the approval for hand applying in the hopper with Monceren has gone. So growers will need to get equipped with the relevant machinery and not wait until they start planting next spring if they need an applicator.
Product losses are causing a significant change in agronomist advice and on-farm practice; the change in the EU's review process from a risk-based to a hazard-based assessment is hitting the industry hard and it is not finished yet.
Sugar beet has also been affected by product losses following the ban on use of neonic seed treatments. This season use of foliar applied insecticides has been successful, losses from virus yellows have been less than we anticipated and crop yields are excellent so far. It was interesting to see the amount of virus patches in crops in northern France, also affected by the same weather we have, with mild winters and warm springs enabling Myzus persicae to overwinter and affect the crop in the spring. Further into Europe, when we got to Germany, the virus patches had all but disappeared as they have a more continental climate and the aphids that carry the virus are less able to survive their hard winters.
As I write this column, the final use date for desmedipham has just been announced with final sales to farm by January 1, 2020, and final use by July 1, 2020. Desmedipham has been in our armoury for 20 years now and weed control in conventional sugar beet will become significantly more challenging.
We have a big re-education challenge as many growers and agronomists have grown up with desmedipham-containing products that have been excellent on key weeds and also very crop safe. It will be manageable, but likely to involve more use of pre-ems, more frequent post-ems and more intense field walking to maintain the weed-free crops which are needed to produce high-yielding fields of sugar beet.
New technology is slowly coming our way for difficult weed scenarios with the herbicide-tolerant Conviso Smart system, which will help. But growers must be able to manage the stewardship the system will require.