Seed variety development now depends on payment of royalties

Three to four years ago we were being advised that the future for wheat growing in Ireland was bleak
Three to four years ago we were being advised that the future for wheat growing in Ireland was bleak
PJ Phelan

PJ Phelan

Crops are looking very promising at present and are generally disease free. The latter is largely due to a combination of low disease pressure and good timing of fungicide usage.

However, following the change in weather, septoria levels are rising on some wheat crops. Three to four years ago we were being advised that the future for wheat growing in Ireland was bleak, given the development of disease resistance.

Low disease pressure last year and so far this year has given renewed confidence, but we must continue cautiously with a well planned fungicide programme using differing modes of action and appropriate tank or pre-formulated mixes.

We also need varieties with improved disease resistance with greater emphasis on their performance in trials without fungicide use or with very limited fungicide use.

Farmers who use home-saved seed are required to pay royalties.

If you used a processor (must be on the approved register) to dress seed for you he will have returned your details to the Plant Variety Development Office (PVDO) and you will receive an invoice for royalties.

If you used your own seed you are obliged to advise the PVDO ( of the variety and tonnage for invoicing.

The future of variety development lies with the payment of royalties - if you don't pay, seed companies will not continue to fund breeding programmes. The fact that we cannot use GM technology to produce varieties is putting us at a disadvantage versus non-EU countries that do not have that restriction.

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The prospect of higher yields with less fungicide usage must be a win-win for everyone and is essential for our cereals to be competitive on the world market and produce an economic income for growers.

A discolouration of the glumes has been observed on a crop of winter oats. That disorder was seen in several crops last year but no pathogen was identified.

It did not appear to affect either yield or quality of grain despite the crops looking very dirty when observed from the headland.

Triticale, which is normally regarded as a crop requiring little fungicide usage, has had some very high levels of mildew which must be controlled immediately.

Disease levels in beans is generally very low, but early weed control gave variable levels of control. Basagran and Kantor provided a better than expected clean up following warm weather after application.

Final disease sprays are now due on most crops. Given that very little disease is present, the temptation is to reduce application rates or to use older cheaper chemistry.

Savings made versus the newer chemicals can be in the order of €10/ac which is substantial.

However, that must be balanced with the fact that the length of effective disease prevention will be substantially reduced and crops will be more exposed to resistant variants of disease.

Given that the total cost of crop production, including land rental at €150/ac, is in the order of €550 to €700/ac, the percentage saving is small.

The loss of the added insurance provided by the more expensive chemicals may be ill-advised unless you are prepared to monitor crops closely and accept that some crops may have to get a second 'final spray'.

Our changeable weather, with rain over the past two weeks preceded by two weeks of sunshine makes for very difficult prediction of disease pressures and optimum fungicide selection.

If we are to make a significant reduction in the cost of growing grain we will have to look further than cutting on seed, fungicide or herbicide costs. The major focus is going to have to be on land rental prices and machinery costs.

Apart from disease resistance, the major issue in crop production is weed control.

The continued increase in winter barley acreage has resulted in sterile brome becoming a major problem on many farms.

Most problems arise from invasion from field margins on the headlands from which seed is carried by the combine further into the field and throughout the farm.

Small areas should be either hand rogued (you must pull the plant at the base so as to ensure the entire plant is removed) or burn off with Roundup.

Another option is to harvest severely infected areas, before brome seed develops, as silage.

Infected areas that are not managed before harvest should be mapped and either not cut or the combine thoroughly cleaned before moving to fields which are not contaminated.

PJ Phelan is a tillage advisor based in Tipperary and is a member of the ACA and ITCA

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