Monday 26 September 2016

Prospects for crops are as mixed as the weather conditions during May and June

PJ Phelan

Published 15/07/2015 | 02:30

As the harvest progresses over the next few weeks, regular maintenance checks are the key for keeping belts and pulleys on the move.
As the harvest progresses over the next few weeks, regular maintenance checks are the key for keeping belts and pulleys on the move.

Soil and weather conditions proved very challenging for crops in May and June of this year.

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Met Eireann reports show that May was extremely wet - temperatures were 1C below normal and sunshine levels ranged from 59pc to90pc of the long term average.

June was extremely dry in many areas. Air temperatures were below normal. Casement Aerodrome reported a grass air temperature of -3.4C on June 9 and the following day had the highest levels of sunshine reported.

The response of crops to those conditions varied tremendously depending on crop type and soil conditions.

Wheat came through May in very good condition and despite some delayed T1 applications disease levels remained low. T2 and T3 applications were generally well timed and crops remain clean with most crops having two clean leaves into the second week of July.

Dry weather in June left wheat crops on lighter soils under considerable drought pressure by the end of the month leading to premature senescence in July.

Winter barley looked sad by the end of May but made a considerable recovery in June to give crops that have reasonably good potential.

Spring barley on lighter soils did well in May but suffered on heavier soils, which remained saturated for long periods. Root systems were considerably reduced in wetter fields and tillering was substantially reduced.

This was aggravated by loss of nitrogen or denitrification in wet soils. Evidence from compaction by wheeling is still evident in some spring crops indicating that soils, though dry on top and wet underneath are not capable of bearing the same machine weights that drier soils in autumn can accept.

Oats liked the wet month of May but, similar to other crops, suffered from lack of nitrogen where denitrification occurred.

There are some crops of winter oats on which the upper grains on the panicle are discoloured, possibly associated with fungicide application on June 9 and 10, when we had the low night temperature followed by a long day of sunshine as outlined above.

Recent warm weather with good light conditions and low sunshine should give good grain fill.

Despite the wet month of May rhynchosporium did not become a problem in barley, even where only low rates of fungicide were used.

Mildew was not an issue except for oats where timely use of preventative fungicides performed very well. BYDV was not a problem this year in barley which did not receive an aphicide in midland counties.

However there are reports from costal and other areas of high levels of virus in unsprayed crops.

With increased reports of aphid resistance it is important to review current strategies and to restrict applications to high risk situations.

Perhaps the most remarkable issue this year is the amount of sterile brome to be seen in crops. Perhaps the wet May suited it but certainly the increase in winter barley acreage and min-till are major contributors.

Tillage farmers should map fields and areas of fields with sterile brome and either avoid cutting those areas or clean the combine thoroughly before moving to clean fields.

Black grass

If you have recently purchased a second hand combine make sure that all possible contamination is removed before use. Black grass which is now the major weed in England has been found in a number of fields in Ireland and was possibly brought in with imported machinery.

Price prospects for grain are better now than they were earlier this year with a current likely price of €140 - €150 for green barley and €15/t more for wheat.

High inclusion rates of imported maize (GM?) in rations continues to be a major issue with which we have to contend.

Price for rape is still unclear but it looks as if it will make the high €300 region.

Finally a quick word on safety. Review your farm safety assessment/statement and make sure that your entire team is fully aware of hazards that they may encounter.

Complete all repairs on your 'must do' list. Once machinery starts moving for harvesting there will be ongoing repairs and maintenance.

Be careful with portable hand tools and always use a plug-in Residual Current Device (RCD) - most of you don't have them but one costing around €10 from any good electrical wholesaler/hardware store could be a potential lifesaver.

Replace damaged electrical equipment immediately and pay particular attention to flexes. You should fully uncoil any extension leads to prevent overheating. All safety guards on machinery should be kept in place and not left off due to repeated ongoing repairs.

PJ Phelan is a farmer and agronomist based in Co Tipperary; he is a member of the ACA and ITCA

pjphelan@ independent.ie

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