No need for panic despite the not so darling buds of May
Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30
Nature is providing plenty of opportunity to test the patience of the most resolute over the last month. We all have experience of inclement weather patterns, however, and cold Mays are something we have witnessed before.
Most crops are suffering in one way or another but there is plenty of time for recovery in most situations.
Winter barley seems to be the exception and crops in general have a fine colour and low disease levels.
The increase in height over the last few weeks has been remarkable. The final fungicide application is applied or soon to be applied and the gate will be closed until harvest. It's up to nature now to provide suitable weather during the very short grain fill, between early and mid-June, that barley needs to provide for high yields.
Winter wheat crops have generally low disease levels, no self-respecting septoria spore would be seen out in such cold. However, this will change as temperatures increase and the newly emergent flag leafs are critical to yield formation.
The flag leaf fungicide timing cannot be skimped on, it's a long way until the harvest. A lot of crops lost colour and look decidedly pale over the past few weeks, but higher temperatures will cause a release of soil nitrogen which should change the complexion.
Once again, it's the weather during the grain fill period in the end of June and early July that will have most impact on grain yield, not the weather in May.
Spring crops have definitely suffered from the cold weather during May. Spring barley crops are a kaleidoscope of colours from brown to yellow, to pale sickly green, with all kinds of deficiencies being apparent. The main deficiency has been soil temperature, which impacts on the release of nutrients to the plant.
With the very short growing season of spring crops, its hard not to see some yield impact from the prolonged cold spell, but again it's a long way until harvest. In the meantime, try to wait for crops to improve their colour before herbicides etc are applied.
The new crop in town, spring beans, also looks very pale. Beans depend on soil microbes to generate available nitrogen to meet crop demands. These microbes are very temperature dependent.
The cold weather is not conducive to microbial activity so the pale complexion is as a result of this. As soil temperature increases, microbial activity will also increase and colour will improve.
Soil residuals have done their job well, but some grassweeds may need control. Some crops are showing notching on the leaves from pea and bean weevil which may need action if it is apparent across the field.
One crop that has been seriously impacted with the poor May weather is potatoes. The two most critical planting weeks during May have been completely missed. A lot of crops are still to be planted and plenty of crops have been planted into poor planting conditions.
Couple that with a drop in acreage and the omens are not good for high yields of produce next harvest.
In a normal functioning market, this should be good news for spud farmers. Poor crops should result in high prices and good demand. However, the Irish potato market doesn't function properly.
What happens in Britain and mainland Europe will have more impact on potato prices than any factor within the Irish market.
Given recent experience, it is quite possible that low levels of produce will only result in less potatoes to sell at the current below-cost price.
There will be some tipping point in the future at which spud prices will swing wildly the other way as there will not be enough growers left to meet internal demand.
When this will occur, no one knows, but it is inevitable when you allow a completely unregulated market operate to the whims of a very small coterie of people.
Dr Richard Hackett is an Agronomist based in North County Dublin and is a member of the ITCA and ACA.