Bird damage main threat to what looks to be exceptional winter crops

Winter barley
Winter barley
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

Fantastic sowing conditions this back end have seen a substantial increase in winter plantings particularly winter barley.

All crops appear to have been planted in very good conditions with the result that crops are looking extremely good.

Crops look very uniform with just occasional bird damage evident. If birds continue to be a problem and appear to be doing damage, especially on later crops, every effort should be made to ensure that the damage is minimised.

Slugs do not appear to have been a problem.

Nonetheless, particularly in fields that are known to be susceptible, slug bait traps should be placed in the anticipated risk areas of fields and if more than five slugs are evident within 24 hours, treatment should be considered. Barley that was treated with Redigo Deter and sown later than the first week of October should not require further treatment for aphids unless plots are particularly noted as susceptible to BYDV.

Crops that were not treated with Deter and emerged in October should have received one insecticide preferably at the two leaf stage.

Crops sown later and only emerging now should not require any aphicide.

Many winter barley crops received a pre emerge or early post emerge herbicide and weed control appears to be reasonably good in most cases. However, due to the lack of moisture in some areas a follow up treatment may be required in the spring. Suitable spraying days will be at a premium.

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Should weather and conditions allow it, products such as Flight, Defy plus DFF, Tower or Firebird can be used.

There are many combinations of these active ingredients available and these can give good flexibility at a reasonable cost.

For winter wheat, options remain for treatment with products such as Alister Flex, Broadway Star and Pacifica in the spring.

There will be some growers still tempted to plant wheat, but, in all but good quality seed beds and early fields, I would consider it too late at this stage.

With the level of planting done this autumn a number of growers may run into difficulty with meeting the 3-crop rule which will be obligatory again for 2019.

To satisfy this rule a minimum of 5pc of the total arable area should be sown to a third crop.

This can include freshly sown grass seeds in arable land. This is a simple calculation to undertake and should be considered now to allow planting a suitable additional crop if required.

Oil seed rape

Oil seed rape crops are looking particularly good this season reflecting earliness and good conditions at sowing.

Canopies are good so pigeon grazing should be less of a problem than normal.

Some of the later sown crops are thin and may suffer from pigeons grazing which should be controlled.

It appears that most crops were treated pre emergence for weeds -however, if weeds still have to be sprayed options include Belkar or Kerb/Astrokerb which will also give control of grass weeds and volunteers.

If volunteer cereals are a problem in sprayed crops, a graminicide should be applied. Disease levels appear to be relatively low. However, if Phoma is evident on more than 10pc of plants, it should be treated. Light Leaf Spot is the main disease but it can be difficult to identify in the autumn.

If crops are advanced and spraying conditions allow it, fungicides such as Proline or Prosaro could be applied.

While this is a good time to look back on how crops performed and margins achieved, it is also an important time to look forward to consider what needs to be done to ensure the best returns from your tillage enterprise this season.

Nothing is more important than ensuring good fertility levels. Recent reports seem to indicate land fertility levels falling.

Reduced fertility levels has been driven to some degree by environmental schemes but are also a result of increasing fertiliser costs. High yields will not be achieved without good fertility levels and particularly high P levels at sowing time.

Again the impact of low pH levels cannot be over emphasised. This level must be kept above 6.5 to ensure the potential for high yields.

Cover crops

December 1 was the official date for allowing grazing/removal of cover crops.

Some allowance was made due to the fodder scarcity and a number of people took up the opportunity to graze these crops before this date. If possible, cover crops should be left in the ground as long as possible to maximise the benefit from them. Crops can be grazed in situ, sprayed off with Roundup, topped and/or soil incorporated.

Finally, over the next few weeks, price trends should be monitored. Opportunities may arise to allow some forward selling.

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

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