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It's crucial we cut the potato acreage

Virtually all spring crops are now sown and planting of potatoes is at an advanced stage. Hopefully most growers will pull back on last year's acreage of potatoes so as to reduce the risk of too much supply next winter.

The old adage of 5pc oversupply leading to 50pc reduction in price has been forcefully driven home this year and most growers cannot afford a repeat performance.

Oilseed rape is flowering strongly -- perhaps four weeks earlier than normal -- but pollinating insects were unable to forage last week. That said, the pollen beetle seems to have thrived and is to be found in most crops which were not sprayed during green bud stage. It is generally not advisable to spray at this stage as pollinating insects (when they come back) will be killed and the pollen beetle itself will have moved from the buds to the flowers.

Last week's cold weather has also taken off the pressure of starting T1 of wheats -- just as well, because an early start puts a lot of pressure on timings and rates of subsequent fungicide applications.

Many crops that were sprayed have been scorched, but while poor visually it is unlikely to have any yield effect. If growth regulators have not been applied to wheat yet it should be done as soon as weather conditions permit.

Options include CCC (750g ai) at 1.75-2.25l/ha; meteor at 2.5l/ha or moddus at 0.15-0.2l/ha with CCC at 1l/ha. In many cases this will be combined with the T1 fungicide and possibly a herbicide to clean up after any misses from the earlier application (eg, autumn or early spring herbicides).

In general, weed control has been very effective this year with the notable exception of cleavers, groundsel and volunteer oilseed rape. Clean-up will frequently consist of fluroxypyr and sulfonylureas and may be delayed to ensure that late germinators are caught.

As wild oats get stronger and once they reach first node, control gets more difficult. Most wild oats will now require full rate Pinaxoden (Axial). Fenoxaprop P ethyl (Cheetah Extra) is a cheaper option on wheat crops.

We all recall the fantastic early growth that we got in February and March, due, we assume, to an early release of organic nitrogen. Does that mean, however, that we will get a lesser release than normal in April and May? If so, we should consider slightly higher final splits of nitrogen.

However, before doing so you will have to look at your overall nitrogen limits. The higher yields of last year mean that many farmers are eligible for additional nitrogen over the basic limits.

Where proof of higher yields is available an additional 20kg of N/ha may be applied for each additional tonne/ha over 9t/ha for winter wheat, 7.5t/ha of spring wheat and winter oats, 8.5t/ha of winter barley and 6.5t/ha of spring barley and spring oats.

There has been a lot of ley ground ploughed this year. Many of the soil samples that I have taken from such land have shown dreadfully low potash levels and, in some cases, severe lime deficiency.

Lime frequently is not a major issue in first ley, but don't be deceived the following year because it will certainly hit you with a bang. Land which is short of lime should have it applied to the ploughed ground and tilled in. Granulated lime is very useful in an emergency situation, but is expensive.

Land deficient in potash must have at least 100-115kg of K/ha (80-90 units/ac) applied and preferably combine drilled. This is expensive but a disastrous crop is of no use. Wireworm, leatherjackets and slugs have the potential to wipe out large areas. Crops on ley should be rolled before and after sowing.

While I am recommending rolling on spring crops, I must also say that every year there is a huge amount of damage done by rolling winter crops in the spring -- some guys are not happy unless they are doing something.

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

Indo Farming