William Powell Country

Game Covers: the Year of the Pest?

Rural Matters

Article written by 09 July 2012

The extraordinary weather in recent weeks has had far reaching consequences for all farmers but for any shoot manager/agricultural contractor or game keeper this is a crucial time in the development of the majority of game cover crops.

During the unseasonal spell of cold weather in early to mid June, the soil temperature fell from 14oC to 6oC, which lead to the development of any spring-sown crop in particular, to have been slowed down to the extent that they were unable to outgrow predators.


The slug population, which has grown over 80% in recent weeks of this very wet spring and early summer, is munching its way through some very stressed and waterlogged crops.

It is therefore VITAL that all spring-sown crops are inspected frequently, particularly maize. Evidence of slugs is easy to recognise as they leaves are shredded. Where there is a problem, slug pellets should be spread as soon as possible and in the current weather conditions, the semi-waterproof (but more expensive!) option is the right one.  We have come across several crops which have had to be repeat treated with slug pellets, because of rain washing them out!

Flea Beetle

Flea Beetles are not attacking brassicas and particularly kales. Again we recommend regular inspections to check for those tell-tell holes in the leaves. If there is an infestation then a contact spray should be applied as soon as possible.


Where weeds are becoming a problem by threatening to outgrow the crop, (such as maize), careful consideration of the right herbicide route to take is important. A contact, broad leaved, weed control product may be a safer bet than applying a residual herbicide, which then removes the option of any further planting of catch crops at a later date.

Lessons for the future?

Even by the British weather standards this is an extraordinary spring/early summer and anticipating such conditions would have been nigh on impossible.

However, those with a high proportion of their game cover in perennial crops are in a far happier position than the majority worrying over large acreages of maize and kale which have to be planted each year.

Miscanthus, Reed Canary Grass and in some cases Pampas Grass areas with a matrix of annual crops are always worth considering and this year more so than most!


James Chapel MRICS

James Chapel is a qualified Chartered Surveyor who had several years working for a national practice before joining JM Osborne & Co. James also heads up the William Powell Sporting Agency organising and hosting over 200 days shooting .. Read more.

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