Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

Tillage: Growing dependent on direct payments

Aphid control will be important for April-sown spring barley
Aphid control will be important for April-sown spring barley
PJ Phelan

PJ Phelan

Bright sunshine and warm days, despite some cold evenings and nights have brought tremendous growth. Winter barley has moved rapidly from tillering to flag-leaf emergence. The period of stem extension is when you get best value from fungicides.

Last week's tillage management article outlined product choice. Moddus or Optimus can be used now to improve rooting, and shorten and strengthen straw. Optimus has 66pc of the amount of active ingredient in Moddus, so the rate has to be increased accordingly.

But the uptake of Optimus is faster. Terpal can also be applied now. Application of Cerone is normally held to growth stage (GS) 37, and can be applied up until to GS 49. However, early application is preferable with all products.

Winter wheat crops should be inspected now for eyespot as the mild winter combined with a lot of early sowing last autumn will have caused increased risk. The threat is highest on heavy soils with second wheats.

Risk is slightly lower if the previous crop was barley, and is substantially reduced after a break crop or in min-till systems. However, the final call on fungicide selection will be made following crop inspection. Cauldron, Deuce, Venture Extra, Venture Jewel or Proline give good activity.

A growth regulator must be applied at GS 30/31 to reduce straw length and improve strength. CCC is the mainstay of most programmes, with rates varying from 1.75-2.25l/ha of 75pc active ingredient.

Tall straw varieties such as Avatar, Dunmore and Weaver will require the higher rates, and will probably require a follow up with Terpal, Cerone or Canopy. Apply Ceraide or CCC at GS 30-31 on winter oats and include a preventative mildewcide, such as Talius, Tocata, or Capelo. Flexity has both preventative and curative properties.

With a lot of April-sown spring barley this year it is likely that aphid control will be important. The ideal timing is GS 13-15. Later applications are less beneficial, as indeed are repeat applications.

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Products used for this application are all classified as pyrethroids to which resistant aphids have been found. It is important to use full rates and, in the event of aphids been found on the crop, to discuss with your consultant the option of using chlorpyrifos or pirimicarb.

Hussar has performed very well in recent years for the control of annual meadowgrass and a good range of broadleafed weeds - except chickweed.

Chickweed resistance to sulfonylureas and CMPP is now widespread, and so it requires the addition of either Starane, Reaper or Galaxy for control. Use an additive for pH correction if using hard water for spraying.

Before spraying any product read the label carefully to check for approved rates, uses, timings and buffer zones.

Spring rape sowing should be finished within the next few days. Apply Salsa early if land has a high weed population.

With crops looking well thoughts turn to yield potential and more worrying issues such as production costs and grain price. The optimistic medium to long-term prospects for dairying put a significant upward pressure on conacre resulting in some tillage farmers losing part of their normal base area.

Most 'new' land went to either dairy farmers or new entrants. Many of these new entrants, motivated by the opportunity to secure new entitlements, valued at approximately €125/ac, were prepared to pay the full amount on inflating previous rental prices. Since direct payments have been introduced, every attempt to aid the active farmer has resulted in more money to land owners.

Can tillage continue to invest in a business that is reliant on a disaster in some part of the world to provide a viable price for grain?

How can grain growers continue to compete with genetically modified (GM) grains?

There is a huge amount of discussion about milk prices this year but little or no mention of grain price prospects.

Is it in the interest of Europe to have crop margins eroded, creating an increasing grower dependency on their diminishing direct payments?

We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the current direct payment fund was allocated to protect farm incomes from world product prices below our costs of production. Those funds were allocated before we were aware of the impact that GM production would have on grain prices.

It should not be a problem for us if we were allowed to utilise the technology. However, grain growers will struggle to survive until such time as GM is approved or a mechanism of compensation is put in place to level the playing pitch.

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


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