The frost has hit several crops very hard – Arable Farming – Darryl Shailes

Talking roots with Darryl: the stinging frosts and lack of rain have hit several crops hard ...

As we are approaching the end of May, we have now had more frosts in the last few weeks than I can remember all winter long.

The one last Friday morning (May 15) was a real stinger as the overnight mist and dew froze with the dawn dip and our garden was covered in a thick frosted rind.

It looked as if it had been snowing at 5am when I was sitting at my desk writing recommendations before the 7am rush of phone calls.

The beans and a few other things were pretty much wiped out and the remaining blossom taken off the trees and fruit bushes.

We do not grow any potatoes in the garden, but the frost of last week has hit several crops very hard especially where the fleece had been blown off or the frost had rolled in from some low-lying meadows in the Breks or the Fens.

Those crops have been put back a couple of weeks, if not more, and what effect it will have on stem numbers and tubers with the regrowth from the ground, I am not too sure.

Darryl Shailes, Root Crop Technical Manager


Weed control has been enough of a challenge already with the extremely dry soil and now some fields may need something else as the canopies will be uncompetitive for some time to come where they have been badly frosted.

We heard last week that mancozeb is facing some tough challenges to maintain its approval. If it does go, it will leave us with very few multisite fungicides in our battle against disease in any crop.

The remaining actives, while being more effective, are much more challenged from a resistance management point of view, something that the regulators do not seem to pay much heed too unfortunately.

So, it will be down to us, the industry to maintain our anti-resistant strategies, as we must prolong the activity of what we have as new highly effective actives are hard to come by and very expensive to bring to market.

Sugar beet

Beet has been a challenge too. The lack of rain has made seedbed conditions extremely important in getting crops established and the more work that has gone into them, the worse they are.

The sporadic beet emergence in some fields has meant timing of all post-emergence treatments have been a bit tricky – whether it is for aphids with some fields being at threshold of one wingless green aphid per four plants, while some of the beet are still tucked under the ground; or for weeds.

Weed emergence has been as challenged as the beet in some fields. It has meant repeat low doses of some contact herbicides to not let anything get too big while the beet catches up among all the frost, then bright sunshine – very tricky.

It all adds up and sugar beet has become a crop that has to be monitored and inspected on a much more frequent basis than in the past few years when we have had effective aphid seed dressings and more effective herbicide chemistry.

It has even been challenging with the Conviso Smart system, in theory a one-stop shot for effective weed management where we are restricted to only one application of the chemistry, a very important part of the technology’s stewardship.

This has meant that trying to target the correct growth stage of weeds and beet, with the patchy emergence and dry soils potentially affecting the residual effect, getting the best from this new system in its launch year is proving difficult. Some fields have had to have a treatment pre Conviso One and some may need a follow up. Time will tell.

So, while much of the UK is in lockdown and doing their Joe Wicks or Green Goddess workouts to stay fit, us agronomist are very lucky to be able to spend our days walking fields, although the 19,500 steps I did one day last week meant I was pretty tired by the time I got home. Stay safe


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