Winter is about to pounce

The weather this week is forecast to have a Baltic feel to it and it fairly puts the handbrake on growth, for the time being at least.

The cold might even be welcome as frost and bitter cold will slow, if not knock back, disease infection in winter crops. But it will also slow establishment in any crops that might still be sown.

We had a similar cold snap around this time for the past two years but we cannot assume that it will be useful to prevent BYDV transfer. Infection may already have taken place in the mild conditions in early sown crops.

The cold now may help slow multiplication in patches around infected plants but not necessarily later in the winter.

Soil temperatures had dropped back to between 5°C and 7°C at the start of this week in the main tillage regions but they could be even lower now.

For the time being growth is likely to be slow at best, leaving crops more prone to attacks from pests and in certain places, crows.

Take a walk across all your crops before you close down for Christmas. If you have wet ponds in corners at headlands can you dig a small channel to let the surface water away?

If you can, it could be very useful when travelling the headland tramline in springtime.

When you are walking, take note of any weeds still present and have a plan in place to deal with them in spring. Also, watch for the presence of diseases and signs of pest activity like crows, rabbits or rats.

Aphids and BYDV

Ground conditions improved in many areas over the past week and this may have allowed sprayers out to catch up on essential jobs like aphicides.

But as the cold bites, aphids are most likely to go down into the soil for shelter and so might not be killed by aphicides applied during cold conditions.

It may be more appropriate to target a spray when they come back up again and multiply within a crop if the weather gets mild. You cannot ignore the risk, especially in very high pressure areas.

If you take out the sprayer make sure to put antifreeze back into it and circulate it thoroughly through all the plumbing and booms.

Quick checks

This is a good time to tick a few boxes for jobs that need to be completed. Most are basic and routine, like anti-freeze in the sprayer and all water-cooled engines.

Visit sheds during high wind and listen for noises that may be as simple as a missing bolt or nail – a stitch in time saves nine.

Pay particular attention to swinging, sliding and roller doors to ensure that they are solidly mounted. Make sure that anything left around the yard is secure in the event of high winds.

Nitrates meeting: Teagasc has a tillage specific CAP and nitrates information meeting on Tuesday, 13 December in the Clannard Court Hotel, Athy at 7pm. CRISS, BISS, crop diversification and new nitrates rules are all to be discussed.