Farm Ireland

Monday 19 February 2018

Harvest may be better than expected

Growers are opting to omit a final spray
Growers are opting to omit a final spray
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

As another harvest comes into view most of the field work is now complete.

All the winter wheat crops should have received their T3 by now, while fungicide treatment of spring barley should also be complete.

Unusually for this time of the year most crops are very clean and many growers may have opted to omit a final spray on spring barley.

With a significant lift for cereal prices last week the harvest may turn out better than expected.

Protect your winter barley from bird attack especially around bare spots, fences and gates. Use tape and thread before areas become too large.

There is no substitute for the gun, and using this regularly and early in the morning tends to give reasonable results.

The only crops that are still likely to benefit from further fungicides at this stage are late spring wheats and oats.

These should get a combination of a strobilurin and a triazole with or without a mildewicide, depending on mildew being present. An aphicide may also be required on wheat.

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Fodder beet has been slow to meet in the rows but recent growth has been very good and crops, particularly those being considered for late harvesting, will benefit from a broad spectrum fungicide over the next few weeks.

The addition of boron and magnesium will also be beneficial and can be applied at the same time.

This is the time of the year to take stock and assess how your crops look.

Many seed and chemical companies are currently holding open days to show their range of experiments and trials carried out during the year.

These are excellent opportunities to compare notes and discuss various programmes with the experts and are well worth the time.

You also get a chance to discuss and compare your own programmes with other farmers.

Assessment of the different varieties in plot situations gives a practical and visual view, while information gathered can inform your variety choice for next season.

At the excellent Teagasc open day growers will have seen very clean crops.

Some plots with very low chemical inputs compared very favourably on disease levels with high chemical-cost plots, leaving farmers wondering if they had spent too much money on fungicides.

The results of these trials will be posted later in the year and at the tillage conference next spring. It is always interesting to note and record your own observations on these open days and compare the eventual yield results with what you would have expected.

This year has been a particularly low pressure disease period, and I believe that a good fungicide programme will still give a good return on investment, but the harvest will reveal all the real figures.

Cover crops or catch crops are generating a lot of interest, partly due to GLAS but also because growers are becoming more interested in looking after their soils.

Biological farming

Biological farming is getting more attention and the day of automatically reaching for a can as a solution is likely to be a last option rather than the first one.

One of the main aims of cover cropping is to improve soil structure by keeping the soil alive over the winter months, increasing earthworm populations and adding back organic matter to the ground.

Cover cropping works best where a diverse mix of species is used combining tap and fibrous roots with some legumes.

Farmers should inform themselves on this area over the next few months.

Don't forget time is running out if you are a sprayer operator and you have still to undertake a sprayer course.

Under the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD) all professional users must also be registered by November 26, 2015.

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Professional users will have to maintain usage records, practice integrated pest management (IPM) and retain proof of qualification.

Pesticide application equipment must also be tested.

Boom sprayers greater than 3m must be tested by November 26, 2016. This is the responsibility of the farmer.

The tests must be carried out by a DAFM registered inspector of pesticide application equipment.

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


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