Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

now is crunch time for harvest prospects

As final sprays applied, growers are hopeful of good yields

'The most common topic of conversation down here in south Wexford is rain, or rather, up until last weekend, the lack of it," said George Williamson.

"Generally our crops are looking well, especially the winter crops, but they all need moisture to convert this potential into grain in the combine.

"Winter barley and winter oats appear to be coping with the moisture stress better than winter wheat and spring barley, where some leaf curling is evident."

Winter wheat received its final fungicide last weekend. Crops are very clean with only specks of septoria coming through to the third last leaf.

"Its been amazing the differences between the septoria levels on the early and late-sown wheat through the year," said George. "We thought the disease may have been very difficult to get on top of but the silver lining of all this dry weather is that it stopped septoria in its tracks."

He also added that low levels of mildew were evident in the wheat crops about three weeks ago, but it has remained at low levels in comparison to some neighbouring crops where mildew levels have exploded, especially in varieties like Cordial and Kingdom.

The final fungicide applied to the wheat was Gleam at 1.75l/ha plus Fezan (Tebuconazole) at 0.5l/ha plus Dimethoate at 0.75l/ha.

"After a good look at the crop before spraying, aphid numbers were not excessive but sufficient to warrant the inclusion of an aphicide," said George.

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Spring barley is starting to head out on the Williamsons' farm and it's their intention to apply the final fungicide next week.

"Disease levels are low in our crops following the dry spell but the crops are also very short and thinner than we would like," said George.

Cultivation systems used before sowing have had a direct effect on the type of spring barley crop the Williamsons have this June.

Crops are superior in density, colour and overall yield potential where the seed bed was pressed and one passed, in comparison to crops where the seed bed cultivation comprised a light cultivation then a one pass.

"The results of this year's establishment, although it is an exceptional year, have prompted us to look at our cultivation system and we will be making improvements for next year" said George.

The final fungicide on spring barley will be Siltra at 0.5-0.6l/ha plus Bravo at 1.0l/ha


The O'Donoghues' crops, like all growers in their catchment, are in need of some moisture to fulfil their excellent potential.

Soil moisture deficit figures from Dublin Airport (close to the O'Donoghues' farm) are at 60mm. Met Eireann describes a soil moisture deficit of 50-75mm as "increasingly restricting growth".

Speaking to Joe O'Donoghue late last week, he said they had between 15 and 20mm of rain but was hopeful that the weekend gone by would bring another 25-30mm.

"Its very dry here in the northeast. I have listened intently to weather reports over the past few weeks but the rain rarely appears to get this far across the country," said Joe.

"It's in years and conditions like this where heavy land pays off.

"It may be difficult to work into a seed bed but its moisture holding capacity is incredible.

"Almost all our winter crops are healthy and there is only an odd area here and there which is showing curled leaves and is suffering from moisture stress.

"To be fair, the weather over the past week has helped to slow growth and give plants a chance. If the weather over the past week was warm and dry then we would probably be looking at very different harvest prospects."

The silver lining to all the dry weather is that there is almost no wet-weather disease present in crops.

"Our wheat crops are very clean despite getting delayed applying the T2 fungicide. The final fungicide won't be applied for another few days and our hope is to get close to June 20," said Joe.

The O'Donoghues intend using Prosaro or similar this year.

"It's increasingly frustrating in the market place to buy the chemistry needed," said Joe.

"Market segmentation is not helping the competitiveness of the farmer, especially where the product you need is only stocked by one merchant in your area. If I cannot get a pre-mixed product then I am happy to get generic products and do the job myself."

Aphids haven't appeared in any great numbers as yet on the O'Donoghue farm.

However, the local Teagasc adviser Shay Phelan says that aphid numbers have increased in many crops in the area.


I spoke to a frustrated John Crowley as he sat in the tractor looking for an opportunity to apply the final fungicide to winter wheat over last weekend.

"Its been a difficult May and June to get good spraying conditions with constant wind and showers," said John.

The Crowleys have used any reasonable spraying conditions, morning or evening, and are reasonably up to date with all applications.

The final fungicide is being applied to the Crowleys' winter wheat crops even though crops are only at the very early flowering stage.

Septoria has not moved past the third last leaf and generally crops can be described as clean. Prosaro 0.9-1.0l/ha is being applied on its own and with Amistar Opti 1l/ha to half the wheats.

"I used Prosaro with and without Amistar last year and I didn't see much difference in either colour or yield between either combination," said John.

Although he admits there may have been small differences it wasn't overly obvious from the combine.

After a good inspection of the crops John found few aphids and is not including an aphicide routinely.

The Crowleys completed the fungicide applications on the spring barley with Proline at 0.5l/ha plus Amistar Opti at 1.25l/ha.

"Spring barleys have huge yield potential this year," said John.

"Tillers survived extremely well in our crops and are very thick and look like they might lodge. I resisted the temptation to apply a late growth regulator to the spring barleys, but I think weather needs to be kind to us to get to harvest without any lodging."

On a related note, John noticed a field of winter barley which appears to be affected by the spring growth regulator and is thinner than other fields.

But a mitigating factor may be that the field has been in tillage for the past 30 years and may be a little hungrier than others, he commented.

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