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Sunday 11 December 2016

Spring barley yields are promising but we are heading for a late harvest

PJ Phelan

Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30

Teagasc Advisor Pauline O'Driscoll is pictured addressing a group at the Teagasc/Carbery open day on the farm of Carbery Quality Milk Award Winners & Drinagh Co-op suppliers Michael & Maguerite Crowley, Bauravilla Upper, Skibbereen. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Teagasc Advisor Pauline O'Driscoll is pictured addressing a group at the Teagasc/Carbery open day on the farm of Carbery Quality Milk Award Winners & Drinagh Co-op suppliers Michael & Maguerite Crowley, Bauravilla Upper, Skibbereen. Photo O'Gorman Photography.

Spirits have lifted a little, following the disappointment with winter barley yields, with winter wheat crops ranging from 4-5t/ac. Early indications are that spring barley crops are promising but we are heading for a late harvest with many crops unlikely to be fit for harvesting for at least another week or 10 days.

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Pre-harvest glyphosate application will be necessary in later barley crops which have a high percentage of late green tillers or where weed levels are high. Pre-harvest application rates range from 2l/ha to 4l/ha depending on weed types/populations to be controlled - read labels carefully. Application must not take place until grain moisture is under 30pc and you must leave at least seven days before harvest.

Pre-harvest application is not permitted on seed crops. For satisfactory control of wheat volunteers and many broadleaved weeds an interval of 14 days is needed. That is tricky given that straw breakdown risk increases.

Blind grains are evident in most spring barleys due to a combination of fusarium infection or sterile grain sites. Both of these problems arose from wet weather at flowering.

Over 90pc of barley pollination takes place before ear emergence with pollination of the remainder taking place during flowering. Rain during that period restricts pollen movement.

While the harvest is still far from completed decisions must be made on cropping for the coming year. There is little doubt that price prospects for the coming year are poor so grain growers must look at reducing costs.

Questions have been asked over the past few years on the economics of growing wheat with the big fear that our fungicides will fail to control septoria. The value of break crops cannot be underestimated. Oilseed rape yields were disappointing this year but the crop is the only break crop option for most people.

While we are all concerned about the removal of pesticides from the approved list, it is great to see new products coming to the market.

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This year BASF have introduced Katamaran Turbo to give improved control of cleavers, poppy, speedwells, deadnettles, fumitory, cranesbill and shepherds purse.

Charlock/runch has increased significantly on farms that have a tight oilseed rape rotation. Salsa will control it but you must get in early.

Slug control is very important in oilseed rape. Traps should be put in place now and monitored carefully to determine the need for slug pellet application.

Baits may consist of a musli breakast cereal placed on to moist soil and covered with a bag or slate so as to avoid the risk of the slugs being picked up by birds before you inspect the trap.

Traps should be placed on headlands and in more central areas of the field. The threshold for slug bait application is one slug/trap before oilseed rape or five/trap for other cereals.

Sterile brome has becoming a serious problem on farms where we are attempting to grow continuous winter barley. This year sterile brome contamination has resulted in rejection of a number of seed crops.

This must add a note of caution to farmers using home-saved seed as apparent savings are quickly decimated in the event of weed contamination, disease infection or varietal purity.

A crop of oilseed rape followed by wheat with appropriate herbicides and post harvest shallow stubble cultivation is possibly the best approach on some farms. Plough if returning to winter barley after the wheat.

Many of our late-sown spring barley crops have Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus and while the levels are unlikely to have had a serious yield impact they will act as a source of infection for early-sown winter barley.

Seed treatment with Retigo Deter will give early protection from aphid attach and will also reduce wireworm and slug damage. Transmission of virus by aphids may be from aphids either walking or flying into crops.

Grassy stubbles and volunteer cereals are the major refuge for aphids that walk on to germination cereals.

Ideally all green vegetation should be desiccated, left for a week to 10 days, ploughed and left for a further two weeks before sowing, or ploughed and left for four weeks before sowing.

These options appear to be a tall order but far better than increasing the risk of insecticide resistance. Flying aphids travel from now until early November.

The Retigo Deter seed treatment will give protection from these but will have to be followed up with pyrethroid in early November. The seed treatment is highly recommended for all early sown winter barley.

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

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