Tillage: Slugs, rodents and making use of wet days

Now is the time to start putting together your pest control plan for the winter
Now is the time to start putting together your pest control plan for the winter
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

The mild weather has really helped us this autumn. We finished sowing all the winter crops in great conditions. They are all up and thankfully no bare patches.

It is so easy for something to break or a pipe on the one pass to get blocked and you only discover it when you finish. You have to look at the mistake all year.

This year, it is a fabulous carpet of green. Unfortunately, we didn't get to roll all of it before the rain came. The last of the rolling will have to wait till spring.

We have been watching for slug activity and have put out slug traps. There was definite slug activity in the areas we didn't roll but there was also slug activity where we would normally have wet patches. We treated these areas with 4kg of Meterex per hectare.

There was already shredding of the leaves by the slugs so we needed to get on top of the problem before it got out of hand.

Some of the later sown winter wheat had the seed dressing Kinto on it. This seed dressing does slow down the emergence, by up to a fortnight.

This is a great help for early sown wheat but we used it on a late sown wheat and we were very lucky that we had such a mild few weeks after sowing to give it a chance to get going. If we had cold hard weather the crop may have been very backwards to try and get through the winter.

The ground conditions were also very favourable for spraying. Previous years we have put such deep ruts in the fields after spraying in autumn that by spring you have small canals up and down the field.

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The winter wheat and winter barley both got sprayed for weeds. We used Flight at 3l/ha per ha and IPU at 1.5l/ha. The mild weather did mean that aphids were active. We sprayed an at .25l/ha to help prevent BYDV.

Another pest that seems to enjoy the mild weather are the rats and mice. There has been an explosion of numbers. When chatting to our bait supplier he mentioned a farmer noticing a crop with what he believed to be rabbit damage only to discover it was rats. It is also a huge problem for the veg growers.

I have followed the deptartment's advice and plan to use the bait for 30 days then lift it and repeat when I see more activity. With my two dogs running around the yard I am very careful that all bait points are locked and secure. We also keep changing the brand so as they don't get to recognise the smell or taste. If they eat a little and they don't die they won't go back to the same one, but if you change it they will.

We also used this break between sowing and spraying to do a stock take on sprays in our chemical store. In an ideal world we would have no cans left, however, almost every year we end up with more than we should. Some are left over and some are products that when conditions changed we didn't get to use, and we knew we would need them this year.

We use a white board to keep stock. We start off the year with opening stock and then write in every product and pcs number as we buy them. I then take photos a couple of times during the year for a record of all chemicals purchased.

Then when we finish I take another photo and wipe the board to start again. These photos can then be printed on normal paper and kept for the grain assurance scheme.

The next wet day I will be trying to catch up on all our paper work while it is fresh in our minds. I find it a lot easier to do it now than in a couple of months time. With five varieties of winter wheat and three winter barleys, it is easy to forget what rates you used and what seed treatments they got. I must confess that this is my least favourite part of farming.

I will also take the advice I was given at the Women and Agriculture conference and walk the farm and see what safety issues we need to improve on. While harvest and sowing are taking priority it is easy to overlook health and safety. Now is the time to put things in place to make it a safer workplace.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co. Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

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