Inspectors need to exercise some commonsense on tillage deadlines
A difficult tillage harvest was followed by an even more difficult planting time with the result that many growers were seriously considering their future in tillage.
The saving grace was the 10 or 12 days either side of November 1 which allowed significant field work to be done in reasonably good conditions.
The weather has changed significantly again with the result that soil conditions are poor and at this stage of the year the best advice is probably to leave the seed in the bag.
There will be occasions - for example, after the harvesting of fodder beet, potatoes or maize - where it may be possible to get a crop sown in reasonable conditions.
While this is perfectly acceptable, remember that crops will take longer to emerge and will be hit by more pests than if sown next spring.
Due to the difficult weather many growers now find themselves with stubbles either sprayed off or ploughed without the requisite green cover established.
This is likely to lead to cross compliance issues.
We would all hope for a little flexibility and consideration from Department of Agriculture officials considering the very difficult and impossible weather conditions experienced over the last number of weeks.
We all know that despite the extension to the cover crop sowing date for GLAS (until the end of October) many farmers still struggled to comply.
All we can hope is that the inspectors exercise common sense in relation to this requirement for green cover.
The allowance for this very late sowing of cover crops, while very welcome and sensible from the GLAS scheme point of view, still raises serious questions on the value, both for money and the environment, of these crops.
I believe all vested interests in the tillage industry have to revisit this area sooner rather than later because the spending of hard-earned money foolishly is of no benefit to anybody.
Birds and slugs
Sowing crops at this time of the year also brings greater problems with pests particularly from birds and slugs.
It appears that slug populations are particularly high this year which is understandable given the very wet autumn and harvest and the volume of trash, particularly straw, which remained on the ground for significant periods of time.
Potential slug problems should prompt greater use of bait points to gauge the necessity to treat.
If you must apply slug pellets the options are relatively simple and concentrated on the use of Metaldehyde. There are several products to choose from.
You should choose the product that is likely to give you the greatest number of pellets per square metre.
Trials show greater control is achieved from higher pellet rates so the use of either higher rates or higher number of pellets per square metre is important as is the hardness of the pellet. Products such as Destroyer, Axcela or Metarex are quite good in both these regards.
It was also notable this harvest that there was greater reluctance to sow winter barley and wheat crops early. This is a good thing and should help to minimise the risk from Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV).
Practically all barley was treated with Redigo Deter and any crops sown after approx. the middle of October should possibly have sufficient coverage to not require any further aphicide treatment unless conditions remain mild and aphid pressure remains high.
It is difficult to give one recommendation that fits all situations particularly in relation to BYDV control.
It appears that there are pockets in areas of the country that suffer worse annually for no apparent reason so historical knowledge or records is probably best used to inform decisions on whether to treat with an aphicide at this stage or not.
Very early sown crops - September or early October, even if treated with Redigo Deter -should be considered for an aphid spray over the next two weeks to minimise the risk further, especially if conditions remain mild and favourable for aphid movement.
From speaking to the seed trade last week on planting levels this autumn, there appears to be a wide variation across the country with some areas at or near 2016 sowing levels while other areas have little sown.
It would appear that winter barely might end up 20 to 25pc down on 2016 sowings while wheat, with some still likely to be sown, wmaybe 15 to 20pc down.
Winter oat planting appears to have suffered most, but this reduction is often made up in the spring.
Winter oil seed rape planting would appear to be in or around 2016 levels with significant variations between areas.
This is disappointing considering the results achieved in 2017 and projections to increase the area sown significantly which did not materialise again because of the autumn weather conditions.
Pat Minnock is a Carlow based agricultural consultant and a member of the ACA and the ITCA. www.minnockagri.ie
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