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Scab control will be a challenge – Arable Farming – Darryl Shailes

Talking roots with Darryl: it's going to be a season of little and often contact sprays ...

It has been a strange week; our little border terrier cross Scruff passed away just after Easter; she was nearly 18 though, a good age. She was a rescue dog and my constant companion when she was younger, walking fields with me.

Darryl Shailes, Root Crop Technical Manager

Spring activity continues and the mother duck and her nine ducklings, the swallows and the first cuckoo of summer make it a bit cheerier.

I also saw the first aphids last weekend, much earlier than normal and we are seeing them in crops too.

The virus yellows season is upon us in sugar beet and by the time you are reading this many will have applied their first aphicide as some beet are nearly at threshold already, much earlier than normal but as the BBRO model had predicted, with the lack of cold weather over the winter.

We’re very lucky that Prof Mark Stevens at BBRO has managed once again to get us emergency approvals for treatments as we will need all we have this season.

The threshold remains the same at one wingless green aphid per four plants up to the 10-12 leaf stage. So, we’ll need to be vigilant and keep looking as they are very small and take some finding. A hand lens is always useful, with the BBRO aphid warning system further aiding us to keep virus yellows at bay.


Weed control is also a challenge as the dry weather has made residuals less effective, although they are still giving some benefit as the weed burden in untreated fields is much higher.

It’s going to be a season of little and often contact sprays while the beet are small and tender, especially with the cold nights and sunny days we have presently.


The potato planting season is in full swing, with the first water going onto the more forward crops. On some lighter soils the water penetration will be a challenge as the beds look as if they’ve gone hydrophobic, so will shed the first few irrigation pulls.

We will continue to look at some of the various products available to help reduce this and allow the water to get into the beds and ridges more effectively.

Scab control will be a challenge if the soils are still not wetting up as tuber initiation approaches, so getting them wet earlier and checking the water is getting down where it’s needed around the developing tubers will be essential in many situations. Don’t just wait until they need it as the result will be very scabby potatoes in susceptible soils.

At present the weather pattern is a long way off being conducive to potato blight, in East Anglia at least, although I did have my first ‘ping’ of the season from the Blight Watch service a while ago.

However, I think it was a mistake as the weather was cold and dry, but it got us thinking about the season ahead and ensuring we had all the correct postcodes set up to keep us informed.


So, the farming spring workload goes on, seemingly remote from the Covid-19 crisis we are all facing. For me, the social distancing is strange in fields, with travelling around farms in separate cars and learning how to video conference all becoming part of our everyday lives.

It is having a huge impact on many businesses with the huge volatility in potato prices and uncertainty going forward in many sectors.

It’s so important at this time that we all raise a cheer for all the essential services including agriculture, but most of all for the NHS, and say well done to Captain Tom Moore.


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