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Monday 16 January 2017

Thoughts turn to weed control as crops boom

Farming Independent catches up with three families of tillage producers and discovers that while soil moisture divides them, they can all agree that crops look well after a terrific start to year

Michael Hennessy

Published 26/04/2011 | 05:00

Proline and Bravo will be the main T1 fungicides used by the Crowleys this year
Proline and Bravo will be the main T1 fungicides used by the Crowleys this year

Even though this is a small country, there was a marked difference between the BETTER farmers' circumstances when I spoke to them this week.

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Soil moisture was an issue with the Williamsons in Wexford and the O'Donoghues in Meath, but the Crowleys in Cork were happy with the amount of rain so far.

However, they all agreed that this has been a terrific year. Almost all crops are looking well and have good yield potential.

Crowleys in Cork

Last week was a busy week on the Crowley farm with the sprayer moving in all directions. John is happy with his crops so far, as all of them are full from hedge to hedge.

"The flag leaf was peeping out to fully out on most of the winter barley crops last week, so we applied a fungicide (Opus+Bravo) with Cerone at 0.4l/ha to most of the winter barleys," says John.

All crops were clean, but John was a little nervous of Saffron and switched from Opus to Proline. "With all the talk of rhynchosporium in Saffron I decided to protect the excellent canopies even though the dry weather will stop the spread of the disease," he explains.

The Crowleys have a large acreage of winter wheat and the third last leaf is three quarters out to fully out in most fields. John started the T1 application to the wheat fields late last week.

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"We might be starting a little earlier than I would like as the third last leaf on some crops are not fully emerged but we have to get around a large acreage and don't want to miss the excellent spraying conditions," he says.

Proline and Bravo will be the main T1 fungicides used by the Crowleys this year. "Getting quotes for chemicals is difficult and time consuming," says the farmer, "But it's worth it when you can see large price differences in the same products."

The final fungicide choice is based around the price, with an eye to the chemical composition, not the other way around on the Crowley farm.

Williamsons in Wexford

"Emergence of spring crops has been exceptional this year," said George Williamson, as he admired a crop of spring barley late last week.

"All my crops are looking well but I need to start weed control in a couple of fields which are particularly dirty with charlock."

The dry spring was excellent for establishing crops, but George maintains the spring crops need rain to wash in the fertilisers and counteract temporary trace element deficiencies such as manganese.

"My spring crops are not struggling yet, but I would be much happier if the recently applied nitrogen was washed in," he says.

He is reluctant to apply any herbicides as yet to his spring crops, not because the weeds are too small or the weeds have not emerged as yet but because he feels the crops are under enough pressure at the moment.

"Last year in the Teagasc spring barley weed trial I could see where a high rate of herbicide damaged the yield potential of a crop by 0.8t/ha (0.3t/ac)," he recalls.

"At the moment weeds are still small and I will hit them later this week after a little rain has fallen."

He intends to reduce rates of herbicides to half rates (or lower) and include an aphicide (as crops are only a few miles from the sea).

The only possible cloud on the horizon for a good harvest for the Williamsons is the winter oat crop that was not ploughed out. In comparison to the newly planted spring oats, it doesn't look great and has a yield potential to match.

However, on a positive note, the plants that survived are growing strongly and are disease free.

O'Donoghues in Meath/Dublin

Winter wheat is a large part of the O'Donoghues' acreage and Joe and Colm are happy with all crops so far.

They stuck to their guns and didn't apply Chlorothalonil (Bravo) to the crops. Joe is quite happy about that decision.

"Crops are very clean with only a little septoria on leaf six or leaf seven," he says. "It's been very dry on our farms so septoria didn't travel and we hope to exploit this in the T1 fungicide this year."

Septoria sampling of wheat on Joe's farm last year revealed the crops had high levels of insensitive strains, so Joe is aware rates cannot be reduced too much or persistency will be compromised if the interval to T2 fungicide is stretched.

"I am still waiting for a couple of prices before I make a decision about the T1 fungicide. In the past I was happy with the performance of Helix, Proline or Venture Extra," he says.

Winter barley is clean so far with the final growth regulator due this week.

"Cerone is my product of choice at this timing and I will add a fungicide, probably generic epoxiconazole or maybe Proline, depending on disease pressure, to aid penetration and the fungicide will help to stretch the interval from the first fungicide until the head is emerged," he says.

His spring barley crops need rain at this stage. All the top dressing has been applied and rain is needed to wash it in.

Joe believes his system of placing fertiliser at seed level before planting appears to have worked extremely well this year, in comparison to neighbouring farms that didn't employ the same strategy.

"Crops look healthier and are growing more vigorously. However, the cost is that our sowing technique is slower and we can get caught when the planting window is narrow," said Joe.

Crops will not get a herbicide until the moisture deficit is rectified, in order to avoid putting the crops under any more stress.

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