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Waterlogged fields in Scotland, 16 October 2012
The struggle continues for our Crop Watch agronomists this week, particularly in Scotland where ware potato crops are at risk of being left in the ground to rot.

SAC senior potato consultant Matthew Smallwod was driving through snow, against the backdrop of growers trying harvest their crops. "It's been a fight between the elements and the grower," he says.

"The elements have won by knockout against growers under contract. Those on the open market are awaiting the judges' decision."

Growers that gambled on late burn-offs of their crops will now be playing cat and mouse with the weather, desperately trying to finish harvest before it is too late.

"There is the increasing prospect of some fields not ever being harvested. Even where windrowers and self-propelled harvesters are being used, progress is painfully slow," Mr Smallwood says.

South of the border, English oilseed rape crops are a very mixed bag, with large areas struggling to grow away from slugs and exacerbated by the phoma threat against the poorly developed plants.

"We are nursing such crops along with slug pellets, limited weed and insect control, some micronutrients and a bit of TLC," says Paul Sweeney, AICC agronomist in Cheshire and Lancashire. "They are so poor that pigeons haven't even recognised what they are - there are barely two pecks in each plant."

Slugs and plants failing to emerge have taken 40% of Mr Sweeney's rape area, however, further south Agrovista agronomist Tim Bullock is confident most of his oilseed rape crops will make it through the winter.

"Winter rape crops have grown on well with the warm spell recently, but are still smaller than expected. Most will survive though, so the early panic is over," he notes.

"Phoma is becoming easier to find, however, so as soon as conditions allow, they will need their first phoma spray. Capitan (fluzilazole) will be the main product this autumn. Some crops will need metconazole for growth regulatory purposes, but they a few and far between," says Mr Bullock.

In Shropshire, due to the poor travelling conditions, Bryce Rham is considering combining his OSR fungicide and graminicide with his propyzamide and carbetamide applications to avoid going through the crop too often.

"Growers must ensure that crops are big enough to cope with the tank mix and check the compatibility of the products," says Mr Rham.

"In my winter wheat area, we are about 50-60% through the planned drilling programme and so far, have not had too many disasters with slugs.

"I am hopeful that if the weather allows us, a dry November will see a lot more wheat going in. I think that we all want 2012 to end and hope for a much better 2013," he adds.

Over in Suffolk, Marion Self is reluctant to bemoan her situation as 80% of wheat is in. However, the seed has often been forced into less than ideal seed-beds. "Pre-emergence sprays have been delayed to avoid crop damage, but are now urgent as grassweeds emerge," she says.

"Slugs are hollowing seed and grazing both above and below ground, and crops that looked good are now deteriorating. Opportunities to kill them with metaldehyde are scarce; perhaps this week will be more settled?"

Ms Self also notes that Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) applications would be better off applied this autumn, despite the delayed drilling and high blackgrass dormancy. "In forward wheats the autumn application should take priority where blackgrass and sterile brome are the targets," she says.

"Spray at the one to three leaf stage of the weeds while they are actively growing and avoid going in the evening when damp conditions may prevent the spray from drying on the leaf," concludes Ms Self.