Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Keep pigeons away from the crops

Michael Hennessy

Last year will be remembered for many reasons, and all tillage growers will count it as a very difficult one.

The year started off cold and relatively dry, but from early summer anybody could be forgiven for thinking it might never stop raining. As a result, waterlogging and trafficability problems dogged tillage farmers from July. The break in weather from the end of September to mid-October was welcome to get land work finished, but most of the cereals sown during this period are not sprayed as yet.

For crops with small weeds, products containing DFF, pendimethalin and IPU will work well and are cost-effective. Include IPU to 1,200-1,500g/ha where annual meadow grass is at the three-leaf stage in wheat, but restrict barleys to 1,000g/ha of IPU. If crops emerged before November or are growing in a known BYDV area then include an aphicide with the herbicide.


Advanced weeds, especially advanced grasses, will require either extra chemicals or a switch to products more suitable to controlling them. Alister can be useful in wheat to control annual meadow grasses and also many of the common broad-leaved weeds.

However, this product works best when growing conditions are good. Beware of applying any herbicides if the weather turns out to be frosty or the crop is still under pressure from a waterlogged soil.

There are very few advanced oilseed rape crops this year. However, due to the weather in August, most crops were not sown until late September and are now at the two- to four-leaf stage. In general, these crops are looking thin and weak, and the wet weather over the past few weeks has not helped growth.

These plants are unlikely to develop any further over the next six to eight weeks but they are very vulnerable to pest attack within that period. Keep an eye out for slugs grazing the newly emerged leaves and also cotyledons.

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The next six to eight weeks is the critical period to keep pigeons off the crop. Pigeons grazing small plants can be very damaging, not only in terms of the physical loss of green material but the grazing action can uproot plants, causing them to die. Either way, in order for the crop to remain viable and reach its potential it will need more than 50 plants/m2 in mid-March.

The cold snap and diminishing food stocks will encourage pigeons to attack isolated rape fields. And it looks like almost all rape crops are a little isolated this year.

Controlling pigeons is not easy, especially after they have established a routine of landing in the field. Contact your local gun club early and also employ and/or all of the following: humming tapes, scarecrows, old cars parked in the field but moved regularly (can also be used as a hide during shooting), kites and balloons.

Initially target the control measures to the most isolated part of the field as pigeons will generally feel more secure in these areas.

All that remains is to wish you and your family a happy and prosperous year.

Irish Independent