Dry spell keeps disease out of crops but rain required

Drought means many crops are suffering trace element deficiencies, writes Michael Hennessy

Joe O'Donoghue's rain gauge hasn't seen much action over the past few weeks.

"Even though there has been 20mm of rain, it's hard to tell on the ground as the wind has dried up the rain almost as quick as it falls," said Joe.

"It goes without saying, we need more rain."

Winter crops are looking well and have retained a reasonably good colour, and the small quantity of rain should help to get more nitrogen cycling through the system. The O'Donoghues still have nitrogen to apply to bring crops up to 210kg/ha of N and Joe needs an inch of rain to wash it in.

Trace element deficiencies are widespread in winter and spring crops. Joe applied manganese on all his wheat this year for the first time and is happy with the results. "The very dry conditions are making it difficult for the plant to pick up soil manganese and we felt all crops needed a boost," he said. "We also specifically targeted some of the later sown spring barleys with trace elements as they were suffering and we will come back with weed and disease sprays at a later stage."

Winter wheats are very clean with the top five leaves showing no signs of disease. "It's hard to see septoria moving in this weather as it is so dry," said Joe.

The septoria timer is monitoring the conditions and is reporting there were no conditions suitable for the spread of septoria over the past three weeks. Septoria timers monitor leaf wetness and even though there was 20mm of rain over the past 10 days, the water has dried off the plants quickly making septoria spread very difficult.

The O'Donoghues' wheat has its flag leaf emerging and the T2 fungicide is due in the next few days. "We intend to take advantage of the low disease pressure so the T2 fungicide will consist of Venture at 1l/ha plus Bravo at 1l/ha," said Joe. "All growers should look at conditions in the crop and make an informed choice based on the disease levels and cost rather than basing the next fungicide around product availability."

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The O'Donoghues intend to apply agro-chemicals to almost all crops in the next week or so.

"Spring barley needs to recover from the drought conditions before we will apply herbicide on them this year," said Joe.

"The only problem is that the broadleaf weed and wild oat herbicides are all needed in a short space of time this year.

"We are going to try an alternative strategy on very dirty fields of spring barley by leaving out a hormone weed spray such as CMPP and use Starane with Cameo Max instead and include Axial for wild oats plus Adigor," he added.

Predictably, disease levels in spring barley are very low and no fungicide application is planned for at least two weeks.

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