Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Tillage: It's back to basics in the fields now that the paperwork is completed

Winter barley
Winter barley
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

With the most important paperwork of the year - the Basic Payment Scheme applications - put to bed for another year, farmers and advisors can now concentrate on the more technical aspects of their work.

I found myself suffering withdrawal systems from not being out in fields for the 10 days leading up to the May 16 deadline.

It never ceases to amaze me how many farmers leave this most important job to the very last minute and if and when there are mistakes they cannot understand how they happened.

With the checking and double checking carried out in my own office we hope that no mistakes were made. There is no doubt that it is a stressful time for all involved.

Thankfully I am now out and about in the fields doing what I like best. In the last couple of weeks there has been a fantastic turnaround in crops, the higher temperatures have led to good growth with winter crops generally looking very good again.

All winter barley has now eared out and while some crops appear thin, generally crops are very clean and I believe the yield potential is still good. A good grain filling period is now essential.

Thankfully BYDV levels appear very low despite the mild winter.

Some crops received an early T0 with the result that the T1 was delayed in many cases until the first week of May and as a consequence the final spray, which is recommended before the head is fully emerged, may not now be applied for another week or 10 days.

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Applying the final spray to get good disease control for 9/10 weeks until harvest is a tall ask, and while it is claimed that it is the most beneficial time for the final fungicide, I am more comfortable with a final fungicide 6/7 weeks before harvest as long as the crops are clean to this point.

Winter wheat crops have also improved well and most are now a lush black/green colour.

Most crops will have flag leaves fully emerged this week and the main T2 needs to be applied now. This can consist of an SDHI plus a Triazole and Chlorothalonil.

A mildewicide may also be required. If crops are particularly rank or if extra N or organic fertiliser has been used this is the last chance to apply a growth regulator. Cerone is an insurance and may be beneficial.

Winter oats has also improved significantly, even those very advanced crops that were damaged by frost and chemical applications earlier in the year. These crops are generally clean where a main fungicide has been applied and most are likely to have ears emerged this week.

The final fungicide for oats should be applied just on earing out and it should include a Triazole eg Tebuconazole, a Strobilurin and a mildewicide if mildew is present.

Spring barley

Spring barley crops are struggling and in many crops seen last week most were showing significant and serious trace element deficiencies. A wide range of green colours was evident. The deficiency symptoms are much more obvious in ground that was worked in very poor conditions.

There is no doubt that kind rain and good growth will help these crops recover, but where there is a known trace element deficiency crops should be treated for these deficiencies, even a second application may well be worthwhile.

Tissue sampling can be carried out to determine deficiencies, however if your crop looks deficient you should use a general trace element mix which should include manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc.

All spring crops, especially late sown should receive an aphid spray.

If aphids are still active after the application of a pyrethroid insecticide a follow up with pirimicarb on barley or dimethoate on wheat should be considered.

Spring barley, particularly malting barley should have its Nitrogen top dressing completed at this stage. For distilling/low protein barley all N should be applied by mid tillering at the latest.

This may compromise yields but with the likely price differential this year this may be a risk worth taking. Higher levels are allowed where there is a history of low proteins. A reference on 6.5 tonnes per hectare is used to determine the area of malting barley sown.

Herbicide treatment of spring crops should be in full flow this week. There are many options available but knowledge of your weed problems and/or ability to identify weeds at the cotyledon stage could ensure a good job done and save costs.

A sulfonylurea will be the main ingredient but will require different mixers to control various weed problems.

The addition of Galaxy widens the spectrum controlled. It is particularly good on, and probably the product of choice, for resistant marigold and poppy.

Where there are cleavers or chickweed the addition of fluroxypyr product is essential. With the removal of ioxynil from the market place the choice for mixers has been greatly diminished however some bromoxynil is still available.

The use of a mixture containing some 2,4-D, dicamba, mecoprop and MCPA will help to improve control in most situations.

Winter Oil seed rape should receive a final fungicide with the addition of an insecticide Karate for seed weevils, if present, at 90pc petal fall.

The fodder beat acreage appears to be back this year. Most crops are now ready for their main T1 herbicide which will consist of Debut, Venzar and a methylated oil.

Spring beans should receive a treatment, at the start of flowering, of Rover with trace elements added if required.

A graminicide may be required earlier if wild oats or volunteer cereals are present. The bean weevil (notching of leaves) should still be monitored and treated if necessary.

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

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