Caution advised with late-applied herbicides

Growers planning to apply a pre- or post-emergence herbicide to late-sown crops must be aware of the potential risks to crop safety and efficacy where conditions are sub-optimal, agronomy firm Hutchinsons warns.

waterlogged field stock photo on arable farming article
Stock photo for illustration only.

After an exceptionally wet autumn across much of the UK, drilling of winter crops has been disrupted, with some growers eager to seize any opportunity to get remaining crops in. However, even if it is possible to get back on the land, wet soils present real challenges for crop establishment and weed control, Hutchinsons technical support manager, Duncan Connabeer, says.

“Where crops have been drilled or mauled in during late November, rough seedbeds will inevitably reduce the efficacy of residuals, and increase the risk of damage.”

He warns that any crops that have been broadcast onto seedbeds rather than drilled, should not be treated with residual chemistry due to the risks of crop damage. Indeed, herbicide manufacturers do not support the use of their products in such situations. Risks are increased because seed will be germinating within the zone of herbicide activity, rather than growing through it, so will be more susceptible to adverse effects.

For winter beans, he also says to avoid any temptation to apply pre-ems when the crop is emerging, or has already emerged.

Water stress

A further consideration is where crops have been water stressed, Mr Connabeer continues. In such cases, it is possible that rooting will have been affected (although this should be assessed case-by-case), which could increase the risk of crop damage if soils stay wet after application.

Hutchinsons employee on arable framing article

He also points out that many products should not be used on soils that are waterlogged with drains flowing or prone to waterlogging. This includes where growers are applying propyzamide to oilseed rape, although in such cases there is still sufficient time to get sprays on and still expect good efficacy before the application window closes at the end of January.

“Where other crops are still to be drilled, we may yet see good conditions for product use, but there may be further tank-mix and or timing constraints,” he adds. “Much of what, and/or when we can do things, will be greatly dependent on drilling depth, seedbed and soil conditions.”

Growers are also reminded that any winter cereal sown after the end of January is then classed as a spring cereal by the HSE’s Chemical Regulation Division (CRD), which reduces the herbicide options available, especially given recent changes to the Extension of Authorisations for spring crops.

Beware BYDV

A mild, wet autumn has been ideal for aphids, so where growers are applying post-emergence herbicides to crops that have exceeded 170-day degrees since emergence or the last aphicide application, Mr Connabeer says to consider including a pyrethroid.

For those in high-risk areas, it may even be necessary to treat crops just for aphids if need-be, he says.

The recent cold spell will help to slow aphid activity; however, he points out that aphids can survive relatively cold conditions and will become more active again as soon as conditions are warm enough.

“Grain aphid (Sitobion avenae) can take temperatures down to -8 degrees Celsius or more, while the bird cherry-oat aphid (Rhopalosiphum padi) is allegedly able to survive -0.5 degrees Celsius for 24–48 hours.

“Monitoring shows there is more virus in aphids this autumn, and there are plenty of them around, so applying a treatment at the right time can be a worthwhile insurance policy to mitigate the risks. It only takes a mild day or two, and we’ll soon see more aphid flights, so growers in high-risk areas in particular need to be vigilant.”

Waiting until the spring T0 fungicide is too late, he adds. “A lot of the BYDV in the 2022/23 crop was spread in the winter/ early spring, before the T0 was applied. Also, remember that once crops reach growth stage 30 moving into 31, you don’t need to treat for aphids because the virus coming in after that stage is less significant and the damage will have already been done.”

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