Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Beet crops look good – but in need of a drink

June 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Significant rain is now needed for sugar beet to reach its yield potential this season, industry leaders have warned.

Beet went into the ground very well this spring, said NFU Sugar chairman Michael Sly. But many crops are in need of a drink. Mr Sly said: “We are – like many farms across East Anglia and the Midlands – in desperate need of rain.”

The Met Office outlook for June is for relatively settled weather – although longer term forecasts are difficult with accuracy. While this may bring dry and often sunny weather, warmer day time temperatures may occasionally trigger heavy, thundery showers.

But there still remains the chance of low pressure bringing longer spells of rain at times, perhaps with some stronger winds, said the Met Office. Even so, temperatures would be near normal or warm overall for the time of year, it added.

Neonicotinoid loss

Away from the weather, this is the first spring beet has been drilled following the ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments. There is some evidence that flea beetle has attacked the shoots of younger plants – but it remains to be seen how much damage had been caused.

“We are not sure if there will be consequences but we are keeping an eye on it,” said Mr Sly.

The loss of neonicotinoids left growers with only be one option in terms of insecticide seed treatment. The pyrethroid Force ST (Tefluthrin) is the last remaining active ingredient of the previous CruiserForce that farmers will be familiar with.

This product controls a number of pests which attack sugar beet seedlings – including springtails, symphylids, millipedes and pygmy beetle. But it is not systemmic and does not control aphid vectors of beet yellows viruses or leaf miners.

Fungicides

In terms of fungicides, Syngenta reports good results from its seed treatment Vibrance SB. But NFU Sugar and others have voiced frustration that growers are being left without the necessary tools at their disposal to protect crops against pests and disease.

Mr Sly said: “Our experience of dealing with the ban on neonicotinoids and subsequent emergency applications shows how politicised plant protection products have become. We continue to argue strongly for strong science and the evidence base on which these crucial decisions are made.”

Increasing numbers of leaf miner eggs are being reported by the British Beet Research Organisation. Sporadic thrips damage is being observed too – although there are no treatments available for this pest.

Mr Sly said NFU Sugar was continuing to work with BBRO scientists and representatives in other arable crop sectors to try to help farmers for the future. But he cautioned against any expectations of early progress, warning: “It is an uphill task.”

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