Important management advice for 1st year Terravesta Athena crops

By Russell Armstrong

Winter is upon us and by now your new Terravesta AthenaTM crops will have had their first frosts. The first frosts will trigger the plants to dieback (senesce). A week to 10 days after the first frosts the Athena will start to turn a purple colour and as senescence progresses the leaves and stems will yellow. This is a very important phase in the development of the crop as nutrients in the leaves and stems are being pulled back into the rhizome to be stored ready for next spring’s growth.

The next job to complete in the management of your new crop is to remove this year’s growth. It is very rare to harvest 1st year Athena crops as in almost all cases the yield of cane will not cover the contracting costs. The best use of the 1st year’s growth is as a mulch to suppress weeds and return organic matter to the soil. It is also important to remove the cane as it will compete for space and light with next year’s emerging shoots and reduce yield. I’d recommend using a rotary topper set to leave a 4-5″ stubble. If you find the topper is digging into the soil, lift it higher and leave a longer stubble. It is very important not to remove soil and uncover the roots or rhizome of the crops and for this reason, I discourage the use of flail machines.

If weeds are present (especially grassweeds) in the crop between topping and crop-emergence in the spring I’d recommend an application of glyphosate. If you are in this situation then please do contact me to discuss your options as certain weeds species are only controllable with glyphosate during the dormant period.

The new season’s growth will start in spring when soil temperatures reach about 8oC. Depending on your soil type, latitude, and seasonal weather variations, this could be any time in March or April and it coincides with the traditional time for potato planting. Lighter soils will tend to warm up quicker than heavy soils.

Once your Athena crop is growing away in the spring there should be no further herbicides required as the crop will be vigorous and growing to a density and height where no weed species will be able to compete with it.

By this time your Athena crop is now established and you can look forward to your first profitable harvest in Spring 2021.

Contact: Russell Armstrong on 07535 649 111 or agronomy@terravesta.com

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