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Thursday 8 December 2016

Price forecasts have brought some realism to conacre market

PJ Phelan

Published 30/03/2016 | 02:30

Gavin Weldon checking the beans for sowing in Finnegan Brothers farm at Balrath, Co Meath. Photo: Seamus Farrelly.
Gavin Weldon checking the beans for sowing in Finnegan Brothers farm at Balrath, Co Meath. Photo: Seamus Farrelly.

The modest price predictions for this year's harvest has brought some element of realism to conacre prices.

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Bidders are accused of 'insulting' land with their realistic price offers. However it must be remembered that the recommendation in the past has been not to pay more than the price of three quarters to 1 tonne of grain for land. There is no reason for that advice to change this year. Where higher prices are paid it can only be justified by doing so in order to draw down entitlements. The option of leasing out entitlements makes far more sense.

Mid March brought a much needed break from rain and the opportunity to catch up on the first split of fertiliser, trace element application and weed control in winter crops. Obviously all costs will have to be managed carefully this year, but small economies, without well assessed management can have a serious yield penalty.

There is no substitute for well-planned fertiliser, weed and disease control programmes. Last year's heavy crops have removed more nutrients that must be replaced - every tonne of grain (assuming that straw was also removed) will have taken 3.8kg (7.5 units) of phosphorus and 11.4kg (23 units) of potassium. Failure to replace that this year will result in a reduction in soil fertility, which most land cannot afford.

The reduction in soil fertility in recent years can certainly be attributed to inadequate replacement of what has been removed. There have also been suggestions that part of the problem may also be due to a deterioration in soil biology.

We are highly reliant on a large range of soil organisms for the release and availability of nutrients. The response to your land management, which has generally been about fertility and avoidance of compaction, is down to earthworm activity and a whole range of microscopic organisms.

Following the mild winter there is a suspicion, and indeed some visual evidence, that disease levels are likely to be high this spring.

We are a long way off the T1 spray in winter wheat at the end of April, so T0 consisting of chlorothalonil possibly with a strob or morpholine will be necessary in most crops. The big emphasis in all spray programmes must be on protecting fungicides from resistance build up. You must not apply a single active ingredient at any spray timing.

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Product labels specify buffer zones that you must follow for all areas adjoining watercourses including dry open drains. STRIPE guidelines will allow you to decrease the buffers specified, provided that you are using low drift nozzles and or reduced rates of applications.

Winter barley crops are responding to the first split of nitrogen. Where the older leaves are carrying disease a three spray programme with an early application of prothioconazole is necessary.

Adjuvants

You should also add either chlorothanonil, strob or morpholine. Independent research has shown economic results from the use of adjuvants with many fungicides and pesticides. Types of adjuvants range from wetters, stickers, extenders, foam and drift reducers, and penetrants, so choice will depend on the purpose for which they are being used.

The T0 and T1 timing is an ideal opportunity to apply trace elements. Don't wait for visual symptoms as field history should be an adequate indicator of what is necessary. Nutrient analysis of foliage is a very good tool, but with a delay of at least 10 days before results are available, it is really for future crops. Use of a growth regulator in winter barley during tillering is important in thin crops.

While winter oats is very advanced and most have held off on nitrogen application, it is now due its first application. Spring varieties, sown last autumn, are now due their first split of growth regulation. shortening effect.

PJ Phelan is a tillage advisor based in Tipperary and is a member of the ACA and ITCA.

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