Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Pressure is on to complete sowing of spring corn as wet weather forecast

Machines have been busy in fields making the most of excellent sowing conditions
Machines have been busy in fields making the most of excellent sowing conditions
PJ Phelan

PJ Phelan

The forecast for scattered outbreaks of rain for today and for more persistent rain tomorrow has led to huge pressure to get sowing of spring corn completed.

Most tillage farmers put in long hours over the weekend and will continue to do so until the work is completed. Think safety, as long hours increase risk of accidents.

But the forecast for broken weather is welcome as it will give an opportunity to use urea. However, throwing urea to a width of 24m requires a well-maintained spreader and wind-free conditions. Vanes on twin disk machines should be free of wear.

Night frosts have kept growth slow in all cereal crops. Colour in general is very good, particularly where products such as Nutriphite and Numerica have been used. Crops on land low in manganese, copper, zinc or magnesium should have got a foliar application of the required elements by now or certainly within the next week when we can expect growth to commence in earnest. Many crops will also respond to the application of 15-20kg/ha of sulphur.

Most winter wheat crops are at growth stages 22-25, but early October-sown Einstein is at growth stage 30. Virtually all crops have septoria evident on the older leaves. The application of a T0 fungicide this week will provide some measure of insurance that you can delay the T1 to mid and hopefully late April. Teagasc advises that this spray should consist of chlorothalonil at 1l/ha, plus perhaps a strobiluron. Cheminova are recommending chlorathanonil with an epoxiconazole such as Strand where there is septoria infection in the crop. The variety Lion should be monitored carefully for mildew infection and early remedial action may be necessary.

Winter barley has tillered very well. Crops that received low rates of growth regulator to maintain or promote tillering are still very prostrate but look well. I have not come across any crops with high levels of rhyncosporium, as was reported recently. However, I have seen several crops with magnesium deficiency and have applied magnesium and zinc. T1 applications will, in general, not take place until after the end of this week.

Winter oilseed-rape has made tremendous growth in the past week. As temperatures lift, the risk from light leaf spot increases. Use Proline, Sancton or Lyrisc on backward crops or Caramba or Folicur on denser crops.

Spring cereals sown in the past three to four weeks are now emerging. While still only emerging, I have found roots at a depth of greater than 10cm. Some of those crops are currently getting their first application of fertiliser. However, top-dressing phosphorus (P), a nutrient which may move as little as 25mm (1in) in 200 days, is virtually futile for this year's crop. Incorporation of phosphorus into the seedbed is certainly preferable but there is no better way to apply phosphorus for spring cereals than to combine drill.

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The prohibition of autumn application of chemical fertiliser from September 15 means that combine drilling is not an option for winter cereals. Therefore the only way to provide adequate nutrition is to sow on highly fertile soils. This year's P top-dressing is therefore for next year's crop.

Potash (K) is more mobile than P but should be placed close to the seed in index 1 and some index 2 soils. Peak uptake of K can be in excess of 240kg/ha at late flowering with much of this returned to the soil as the crop matures. If soil reserves are not adequate to meet that peak demand, yield and quality will be reduced.

Finally, I spent one day last week with a farmer who used a GPS unit for the first time. The unit was borrowed but he left the field saying that he would never again attempt to spray or spread fertiliser without getting his own unit.

PJ Phelan is a member of the ITCA. Email:

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