Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Pest damage real concern for cereal growers

All field work for 2012 should be completed at this stage. No further sowing should be contemplated. Emergence will be extremely slow over the next two months and will leave seeds and crops exposed to pest damage.

Crows can be a particular problem with young emerging crops and slugs continue to be a problem in some fields.

If you are worried about slug problems it is preferable to bait slug pellets in a number of problem areas around the field rather than an overall slug pellet application.

Wet spots and weak areas in fields have become evident of late and will probably be a major factor in the spring when decisions will have to be made.

Aphid numbers in the ITCA aphid traps around the country have dropped dramatically over the last week or 10 days and no further aphicide application should be required if an aphicide has already been applied to early sown crops.

Only half of the winter wheat acerage has been planted compared to this time last year.

Many winter cereal growers are concerned about the extra work load that this will entail next spring.

However, consider the variable costs for winter wheat of between €550 to €600/ac versus variable costs of €370 to €400 for spring barley. The contrast proves that potential returns from a spring barley crop are every bit as good, if not better, than a wheat crop, especially if it has been 'mucked in.'

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In addition, an early spring may allow the planting of break crops such as spring oats or beans where these might not have been considered previously. Beans have relatively lower variable costs of €220 to €230/ac.

With achievable yields of 2t/ac to 2.5t/ac this crop can be an attractive option. Considering the current high price for soya, beans could be a good price next autumn.

Generally beans will commandeer about €40/t over the barley price. They are a good break crop and an ideal entry for winter wheat.

Spot prices for cereals are very high currently with up to €280/t for wheat and €260/t for barley available. Very little forward selling is taking place and this is understandable given the way things worked out during the harvest.

The indications for dried wheat next harvest are at around €235/t. Despite what happened with prices in 2012 I would still strongly recommend that growers consider some element of forward selling for 2013.

If you are happy that you can make money at the price on offer you are reducing risk by forward selling a portion of your projected harvest. Learn from some of the mistakes made this year and only initially sell a portion (20pc) of a reasonable projected yield (3.5t/ac) and make sure you agree all the deductions and bonuses with the price.

The 2012 oil seed rape crop is much less advanced than at this time last year. Pigeons are becoming a major issue. However, once the crop is reasonably well established the loss of leaf is not too critical.

Late sown crops this year will struggle to develop into a worthwhile crop. Grass weeds and volunteer cereals need treatment in some crops. Apply a graminicide such as Falcon, Aramo, Fuscilade or Stratus.

Crops not sprayed with a pre-emerge herbicide now need to be sprayed with a Propyzamide product at 1.75kg/ha. This will control both broadleaved weeds and grass weeds.

Farmers with a love of beet growing, and particularly those with beet equipment still in their possession, would do well to consider growing beet over the next few years for use in anaerobic digester (AD) plants in Northern Ireland.

Beet transported this year from the south to Ballyrashane Creamery near the Giants Causeway has worked well and been well accepted.

It is showing better energy levels and greater consistency compared to other feedstocks, especially maize.

Contracts will be available again for next year and other anerobic digesters will require additional feedstock. There are 90 AD plants in the planning process in the North, while 10 are already up and running.

The development rate makes me wonder what our own Government is doing. Much of the feed stock for these AD plants will have to be imported from the South and will consist of beet, maize and grass.

This is a potential area for expansion for many growers with the knowledge and equipment to capitalise on it. A contract price of €40/t might appear low at today's feed price of €50, but a guaranteed market with a five-year contract at this level will leave a reasonable margin and a good entry to winter wheat for the grower.

This will also help to put a bottom on the market price for beet for future years.

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

Indo Farming