Crops sown after recent bad weather will likely lead to much lower yields

Winter barley near Athy, Co Kildare
Winter barley near Athy, Co Kildare
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

The poor weather and heavy rains at the end of October have made field work difficult and now leaves a major question mark as to the viability of sowing from now on.

With the high costs for growing winter wheat it is probably best that sowing be postponed. Ploughing of ley is prohibited until December 1. It can be expected that crops sown now, especially in bad conditions, will lead to lower yields and therefore lower returns.

Also, considering the forward prices for cereals, I believe there is no incentive for growers to attempt to sow wheat, especially in bad conditions.

Returns from spring crops will be every bit as good if not better. Obviously the new requirement for Greening, for all farmers with more than 30ha, will require three different crops, so this fact must also be considered in your overall plan.

The Department of Agriculture's online system went live on October 31. It is now possible for farmers or their agents to use this to determine their Greening position in relation to their 2015 crop plans. The site shows if you are compliant based on your 2014 application. The crop calculator included allows farmers see how their 2015 crop type proposals tallies with their obligations.

This will clearly show farmers the percentages of each crop for 2015 and will help to ensure no mistakes are made with calculations. It also provides the farmer with the Department's estimate of the farm's Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). The onus remains on each farmer to ensure their EFAs percentage is correct. Failure to abide by the Greening obligations will mean the non-payment of the Greening element of the applicant's basic payment.

At the moment winter barley generally looks good. All early-sown crops should have received a herbicide and at least one insecticide at this stage. Aphid numbers are high and it appears there is high incidence of the kdr gene amongst grain aphids in a small number of fields where pyrethroids were applied.

This appears to confirm some evidence of resistance to these pyrethroids, which is the first in an Irish situation. Considering some barley crops were sown very early and, considering the very mild autumn and the significant green bridge available, it is important that growers take action against the potential for BYDV.

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For September-drilled cereals, which have already been sprayed, a further aphicide should be applied now. For later October drilled cereals that have not yet received an aphicide this should now also be applied. A follow-up spray should not be required on these crops.

For cereals sown now or emerging towards the end of November no treatment for BYDV should be required, except if the weather remains extremely mild over the winter.

If there is evidence of aphids, despite the spraying of pesticides such as pyrethroids, the aphicide used can be changed to a chlorpyrifos or dimethoate (wheat only) type product.

Winter oilseed rape crops look very strong and in most crops that I have inspected there is little or no evidence of disease present.

There are some reports of downy mildew on some of the lower leaves of early-sown rape. This disease causes some leaf loss, however, when the crop reaches four leaves it is not generally a problem.

Many advanced crops were sprayed in late October. The less-advanced crops at this stage should not require any autumn fungicide unless the weather conditions remain mild and disease pressure increases. Light leaf spot can be treated if wet weather conditions remain mild. Infection from this disease may not be easily visible and an early spring fungicide can be used if lesions become evident on 25pc of the leaves.

The dry weather and dry soil conditions after sowing has led to some poor results from residual herbicides, with the result that some crops are showing more weeds than normal.

Most crops require a graminicide for either volunteer cereals or wild oats. If this has not yet been applied and if there are broadleaf weeds present the chemical propyamide should be considered.

As well as taking out a range of broad leaf weeds, this will control cereals and wild oats and will only cost in the region of €10-12/ha over the cost of a straight graminicide.

This chemical works best once temperature drops below 8°C.

Pat Minnock is a Carlow-based agricultural consultant and a member of the ACA and the ITCA.

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