The harvest of 2012 still struggles to get going. Probably the best weather of the harvest so far was August 9-11, when most of the winter barley, some winter oats and a lot of the winter oilseed rape was wrapped up.
This goes to show that, given an opportunity, farmers are well organised to capitalise on all weather conditions.
Winter barley yields were very variable from 1.5-4t/ac, with the average 3-3.3t/ac. Bushel weights of the two-row varieties were significantly better than the six-row varieties.
The baling of barley straw has also been a challenge. Straw is making €45-60/ac on the ledge. It is worth noting that chopped straw is worth at least €40/ac for fertiliser purposes.
Particular care will need to be exercised this autumn for winter crops with slug populations being so large. Winter oilseed rape, which looked to have very good potential this year, varied in yield between 0.7-1.7t/ac.
Many of the lower-yielding crops suffered from severe seed loss due to shedding as the harvest became delayed. Growers reported a green carpet of germinated rape seed already establishing under the crop as it was being harvested. Slugs will also be a major problem following this crop.
Winter oats have tended to yield around 3t/ac. Quality was not particularly good with bushel weights of 48-52kph, but colour remains reasonable.
Early winter wheat crops are struggling to reach 3.5t/ac with some reports of 2.5t/ac. Early crops of spring barley appear to be doing reasonably well at 2.7- 3t/ac.
The malting barley problem this year is high proteins, with many samples at 11pc or higher.
The level required by Boortmalt is 9.3- 11.6pc, with price indications of up to €250/t. Lower levels will be accepted, but at a €15-20/t discount. Screening levels are also higher this year, at about 4-5pc, with up to 8pc acceptable.
Opening the sieve and increasing the fan speed will help reduce screening levels if necessary.
Grain prices are the good news of the harvest so far with more than €210/t for green wheat; €205/t for green barley and €215/t for oats available.
Oil seed rape will command €450/t from merchants.
Despite the difficulties with the harvest, farmers continue to be resilient and positive and many are even talking about planting oilseed rape even before the 2011 crop is fully harvested.
There is a small window of opportunity to get early rape planted.
Ideally, it should be planted before September 10, probably after winter barley in the year that's in it.
With this in mind, it is worthwhile planning your winter barley fields for 2012 with a view to sowing the same field to rape next autumn.
If sowing particularly early, it is preferable to sow the conventional (C) varieties first, as these are slower to establish. Some of the hybrids (H) should not be sown until late August, especially DK Expower, which is more suitable for later sowing up to September 15.
Much of the lodging this season was probably as a result of very early sowing, especially hybrids and very advanced crops going into last winter.
There are only four varieties on the Irish recommended list -- Compass (H), Epure (C), Flash (H) and Osprey (C).
There are further varieties available, notably DK Cabernet (C), DK ExPower (H), DK Camelot (C) Excalibur (H) and some new varieties like Sensation (H) which performed well this year. Hybrids should be planted at 50 seeds/m2 (2-2.5kg/ha).
There are 1.8m seeds in an 11kg bag. Conventional varieties should be planted at 60 seeds/m2 (3-3.5kg/ha). There are about 4m seeds per 22kg bag in the case of the latter.
You should check the chart provided on each bag as the 1,000 grain-weights may vary.
Correct settings are indicated to achieve the plant stand required.
It is advisable to consider the use of mini-slug pellets, Metaldehyde, with the seed this year due to the level of slugs present.
In addition, the crop itself should be carefully monitored during emergence for further slug problems. 1.5L/ha of Butisan S or 2L/ha Katamaran should be used pre-emergence with Katamaran preferable if cleavers are likely to be a problem.
A new early post-emergence product, Salsa, will be available from Dupont this autumn, but it is still awaiting registration.
In addition to controlling a good range of other weeds, it gives good control of Charlock, Shepherds Purse and some control of Runch up to six true leaves.
Pat Minnock is a Carlow-based agricultural consultant and a member of the ACA and the ITCA. www.minnockagri.ie