The loss of Neonicotinoid seed dressings could give maize growers real establishment problems in 2014’s wet soils, warns Grainseed’s technical director Neil Groom. The 2 year Neonicotinoid ban means the popular seed dressing Poncho has been withdrawn for use this year leaving many growers at risk from leatherjackets and wireworms and the serious damage they can do to yields.Whilst strategic use of alternative treatments will be needed to avoid shortfalls, sound crop husbandry and good seedbed preparation are key too, he says.
“If your maize fields are after long-term grass, meadowland or set aside then the chance of you having leather jacket and wireworm problems are high, especially if you’re on the wetter western side of the country where there is a greater area of parkland type grazing.”In terms of insect pests, the remaining pesticide Sonido offers good control but there are limitations as to its use, he says.“Whilst Sonido can be used as a seed dressing to give good control of soil pests, we cannot treat the same seed with both Sonido and Mesurol, and it’s Mesurol that provides the seed with the vital protection against birds.”One way of getting around the problem could be to mix Mesurol treated seed and Sonido treated seed in the drill hopper so you get a level of control against both pests. But it’s only half the answer when it comes to protecting yields, Neil Groom points out.“To fully counteract the loss of Neonicotinoids you really need to look at all the aspects of crop management that can affect early plant establishment.“For example, plants get away quicker if they are drilled into a warmer seedbed. So don’t drill too early – try and leave it until the middle of May when the soil has warmed up rather than in mid April.”Selecting varieties with good vigour such as the ultra early maturing variety Picker or mainstream variety Hobbit will also speed up plant establishment and reduce the vulnerable seedling period. Seed treatments such as Opticoat, which contain Zinc and Manganese, are worth considering and placement fertilisers which give the roots a band of phosphate to tap into as soon as they emerge are a good idea.But growers must get all aspects of nutrition planning right and this means making a realistic fertiliser plan, Neil Groom says. Removing compaction pans is also a priority.“Compaction is usually visible at around 12 – 18” of depth so get a spade out and check to see if you have a problem. If there is a pan then use any dry weather period to remove these layers.“It’s also a good idea to rotate maize around the farm if you’ve got the land to do it as this ensures you don’t get weeds and pests building up and it’s probably better to be using short term leys based around Italian Ryegrass and hybrid mixtures rather than long-term 6 - 7 year leys.”