Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

Harvest pressure builds but trials offer hope for '13

July 24. We should be discussing harvest yields of winter oilseed rape and the start of the winter barley harvest. Instead, we have just about finished desiccation of the rape and started desiccation of winter barley.

That said, winter barley has turned rapidly in the past week and, given reasonable conditions, harvest may start by the end of the week.

The delayed desiccation of rape will result in harvest commencing in mid August when by right we should be starting to sow the 2013 crop.

Many of this year's crops are suffering badly with pod rot due to a range of diseases including light leaf spot and alternaria followed by secondary infections with botytris. The problems are greatest in lodged or leaning crops where air circulation is poor and the crop remains wet due to almost constant rainfall.

Yield potential in those crops has been hit very hard and some crops which we had hopes of more than 2t/ac five or six weeks ago may now do well to achieve half of that figure.

Some farmers who sold their rape in advance will find it difficult, if not impossible, to meet their contracts. Seed availability is unlikely to be a problem but work overload with delayed harvesting will put a lot of pressure on for sowing.

It looks as if the only opportunity to sow rape will be after winter barley. Farmers will have to be organised and have everything ready to go as soon as conditions permit. The late harvest will also mean crops may be sown before the recommended list will be published.


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With that in mind, I visited the Department of Agriculture in Backweston research centre last week . Of the five OSR trial sites, the ones in Trim and Backweston are under most stem stiffness and lodging pressure and are affected by pod rot similar to commercial crops. Trials in the south -- Kildalton, Shanagarry and Moorepark -- are standing much better.

Variety trials over several seasons are a great source of information as they show the relative performance of different varieties under close to identical conditions.

Differences in climatic and soil conditions at different trial sites give information on varietal performance under differing pressures. The potential of new varieties are established and slippage of established varieties can be identified at an early stage.

This enables farmers to change varieties without having to experience losses through use of new unsuitable varieties or holding on to existing varieties too long.

This year's trials were sown from August 20, 2011, with hybrids sown at 55 seeds per square metre and conventional varieties at 85 seeds per square metre.

Flowering commenced on March 20 and did not finish until mid May. The fungicide/ growth regulation programme consisted of one autumn application, followed by two spring applications. A final spray of Proline and Amistar for disease prevention was applied at petal fall.

21 varieties are currently in trial. They are made up of six conventional and fifteen hybrids.

The Backweston site this year, due to the fact that a number of varieties are leaning and lodging, will yield valuable information on relative standing ability. Two hybrid first year varieties, PT 206 and WRH 399 look to have good potential.

Patron and Kite are two newcomers to the trials and look promising. Patron appears to be late maturing and is standing well.

Sensation, a hybrid variety, is in its second year of trials. It outperformed Flash last year in terms of yield and it will be interesting to see if it can repeat the performance this year. It is leaning in Backweston but still standing and has big long pods. It is an intermediate to late maturing variety.

Marathon is a short, medium maturing hybrid which looks to have good potential. It is standing well and has good stem stiffness. Compass from Seedtech out-yielded Flash last year and is looking well on all sites. While it is a tall variety, it is standing well. In contrast, Flash, a restored hybrid variety, is leaning considerably but is still harvestable. However, it is standing well on the more southerly trial sites. It is a medium to late maturing and is starting to turn. The Department trials last for three years before any variety recommendations are given.

Patrick J Phelan is a member of ITCA and may be contacted at

Indo Farming