Tillage: Weather and soil conditions all point to a very late spring

Conor OMalley, Farm Manager of Meade Potato Company plants Nairobi and Nominator varieties of early carrots in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth. Photo: Jeni Meade.
Conor OMalley, Farm Manager of Meade Potato Company plants Nairobi and Nominator varieties of early carrots in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth. Photo: Jeni Meade.
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

Despite the early Easter this will be a very late spring. Weather and soil conditions curtailed any significant field work in March with only light land sown at this stage. Ploughing and sowing of the heavier land continues to remain difficult.

All growers would like to have their sowings completed at this stage, however it is still best to delay for a few more days to allow sowing conditions to improve. Crops sown in poor conditions will struggle throughout the year.

A good seed bed allows crops to take off quickly when weather conditions improve. In addition to the weather holding back work, there is no doubt that projected grain prices are also affecting the enthusiasm for work.

As has already been advised this year, poor grain prices should convince everyone to leave poorer fields and areas in fields fallow for this season.

Low fertility land or ground that is still difficult to plough would be best left idle and improved through the use of organic manures and cover crops during the season. This option will not entail costly inputs and will leave more of the BPS payment intact.

I spoke to many in the seed trade last week and they advised that there was still a reluctance by farmers to commit to seed and fertiliser. The poor weather wasn't helping, but more farmers were also aware of the potential for poor returns.

While beans were the stand-out crop in 2015 for returns, it would appear at this stage that the 2016 bean acreage is unlikely to exceed last year. This should help to maintain the protein payment at around €250 per hectare. If you are still considering sowing beans, remember, that it is a crop that needs a full six months in the ground.

Sowing this week means that it will be well into October before you get to harvest. Any crop sown should be treated pre-emergence with Nirvana or a combination of Nirvana and Lingo.

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The wet, cold and late spring has restricted spring growth of winter crops, and while many crops were ahead of normal over the mild winter, most crops are now at normal growth stages. Many have lower than normal plant counts, probably due to the extreme wet conditions over the winter.

Many winter wheat crops are at growth stages 25-30 with moderate levels of septoria on older leaves. The next task is to apply the main split of nitrogen. An early application of a growth regulator such as CCC at this stage and during a period of growth will help the promotion and survival of tillers. For advanced crops an application at growth stages (GS) 30-31 is more effective.

All crops should receive their main nitrogen split around GS 31-32. Typically, this would be 50-60pc of the total 210kg/ha being applied. The addition of 15-20kg/ha of sulphur should be included, especially on light land. Trace elements, particularly copper, zinc and manganese, should be applied before GS31 for best effect.

For unsprayed weeds in wheat crops there are a number of options: Allister can be used up to GS30, while Broadway Star is cleared for use up to growth stage 32, but it is poor on annual meadow grass. Pacificia is cleared to GS39 if brome grass is an issue. Some crops need a clean up to control groundsel, poppies and fumitory.

A low rate of a sulphonylurea product might be considered. Fluroxypyr can be added for cleavers or chickweed. Spitfire gives very good control of volunteer beans. If you are applying a growth regulator around GS30-31, include chlorothalonil and a morpholine if mildew is present. Triazoles should be avoided at this stage to help the resistance strategy.

Winter barley

Most winter barley crops are heading for GS30-31. Mildew, rust, particularly rhynchosporium, are all evident. Rust is present on some six-row varieties and on Tower, but mostly on the older leaves. Again the main nitrogen split should be applied now.

Weed control in winter barley crops appears relatively good. Wild oats should be treated now. A growth regulator, typically 1.5l/ha of CCC, should be applied. If temperatures remain less than 8C an adjuvant penetrant should be used to improve uptake.

Hybrid barleys should be treated with 0.2//ha of Moddus plus 1l/ha of CCC at GS30-31. Where rhynchosporium is present Proline either with or without a low rate of strobilurlin, morpholine and chlorothanonil should be applied early to help to protect new growth. This may allow the delayed application of the SDHI when crops have a full canopy and better returns from an expensive SDHI spray can be achieved.

Oat crops are at a very advanced GS31 in many cases, but also with high levels of mildew. Growth regulation at GS31-32 is essential to minimise straw length and maximise strength. It is advisable to include a preventive mildewicide such as Talius or Flexity. A reduced rate of triazole at GS31 could also be useful to give some control of red leather leaf disease and rust. Include Corbel or Tern if mildew is present.

Oilseed rape weed control should be complete and it looks mostly good. Wild oats and cereal volunteers may still need treatment. The final nitrogen should be applied shortly, if not already, and should bring the total rate up to about 225kg/ha. Sulphur should be included at a minimum of 30kg/ha if not already applied. Boron is essential for this crop and a rate of 3-5kg/ha of Solubor is recommended.

This can be applied with the main fungicide of either tebuconazole, Magnello, Prosaro or Caramba, all of which are good on light leaf spot.

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

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