Farm Ireland

Monday 18 March 2019

Bird attacks the biggest threat to crops in run-up to the harvest season

(Stock Photo)
(Stock Photo)
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

The heavy rain of the last week has caused some lodging particularly in spring barley and winter wheat crops.

There is also lodging in winter barley, however the likely yield effect at this stage in this crop should be relatively limited.

The biggest challenge will be to control bird attacks as these can cause significant loss if ignored.

Combinations of control strategies should be tried as sometimes one might work better than another.

This can include early morning shooting, bangers, balloons, hawk kites and thread.

All crops are generally very clean and disease control measures appear to have worked very well although, in fairness, disease pressure was not anywhere near normal levels this season.

Flowers in bloom on a biodiversity strip at the Department of Agriculture's land in Backweston, Co Kildare which held an open day on crop variety trials
Flowers in bloom on a biodiversity strip at the Department of Agriculture's land in Backweston, Co Kildare which held an open day on crop variety trials

If not already done, the final head spray should be applied to winter wheat. This can include a Strobilurin and Triazole. If mildew is still present add a half rate of a morpholine.

All crops should be assessed for the presence of aphids. Aphid levels, surprisingly, appear very low on wheat heads this season.

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Many early T3 fungicide applications included an aphicide over the last two weeks despite low infestation.

Unfortunately, this will affect predator numbers as well and may give rise to re-infestation over the next few weeks.

Regular monitoring is essential and no action should be taken until the threshold levels are reached. This is when there is an average of five aphids per head. Once the grain reaches the milky ripe stage (g.s.73) no further treatment is required.

Only a systemic aphicide should be used at this stage as any of the contacts will fail to reach aphids hidden in dense canopies. There is no aphicide allowed for late aphid control in spring barley. The final fungicide could also be applied to spring wheat.

If spring barley has not received its final spray, considering there are still six to eight weeks till harvest a light final fungicide might be considered. This could include Chlorothalonil plus a Strobilurin with or without a Triazole.

Some winter oil seed rape crops have already been desiccated and most crops will be ready for desiccation this week. Various mixtures of Glyphosate are available. Include an adjuvant such as Slippa. Robust rates should be used. The addition of a pod sealant may be beneficial.

Depending on the harvest and shedding, I believe it always feels better if a sealant has been included - at least you feel you did your best and probably two out of five years you will probably get a return. This should be applied when the middle third of the pods on the main raceme are turning brown.

Considering the long flowering period this spring, the ideal timing might be difficult to determine, however there is a reasonable window for application. It can take up to three weeks for the desiccant to be fully effective.


Now is the time to check out your combines and trailers to ensure they are ready for the harvest which may start in the south of the country within the next two weeks.

Talk to your contractor and have a provisional plan in place. Discuss likely timing and management of the harvest to ensure crops are saved at the appropriate time and all suitable opportunities are grasped.

Make a decision on how you are going to manage the harvest, particularly the sale and/or storage of the grain.

While prices have risen slightly recently, it is unlikely there will be any significant price rise during the harvest.

Have a discussion with your merchant on how you want to manage the sale of your grain. Merchants will generally be happy to store grain without deciding on the final price payable, but remember once the grain is delivered it will be more difficult to negotiate a price later.

This is also the time of the year to stand back and assess how the management of the various crops worked out for you this season.

Generally, it appears that weed and disease control was relatively good. Nevertheless, there will be fields which have some wild oats that were forgotten about or possibly sterile brome or other weed grasses that have spread compared to last year.

Identifying grass weeds and remembering their location will be key to controlling them next season. If infestation levels are low hand rouging is still a good option. Do not allow grasses to seed before rouging.

Take your BPS maps to the field and mark areas that are bad or that will have to be treated next season.

There are numerous open days being held currently. The Department of Agriculture have held open days on their variety trials in Backweston. These are good trials and worth seeing.

Last week's excellent open day in Oakpark displayed a wide range of pesticide treatments, varieties and machinery demonstrations.

It was an opportunity to compare your own crops and management with the experts. It was obvious that disease pressure was relatively low even to the degree that one variety of winter wheat, Rockefeller, showed little or no disease even in the control plot. This variety was particularly tall.

These trials and open days are very useful to get a flavour of what might be coming down the line.

However, decisions on varieties, pesticides and management systems should be reserved until final yield results are in.

It was also obvious that some very cheap fungicide programmes worked well but, as every year is different, decisions should be based on a number of parameters.

Of major concern again this spring was the incidences of BYDV (Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus) in spring barley.

Whether this manifests as significant yield reductions remains to be seen. The worry is that the current chemistry is unable to control aphids at this stage and some cultural methods like late sowing of winter cereals, early sowing of spring cereals and variety resistance may be practiced more prominently to minimise the risk to BYDV in the future.

Finally, the closing date for the first tranche of tillage TAMS was last week. I understand there were approximately 250 applications and the order of preference were for minimum disturbance tillage equipment, sprayers, GPS systems, rollers and grain treatment.

The second tranche will open immediately.

Fertiliser spreaders were not included in the first tranche but will be included in the second tranche.

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

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