Make combine hygiene a priority ahead of the harvest
Any issues with moisture stress were solved with last week's rainfall. Winter barley, which is filling rapidly, escaped lodging but further rainfall this week will test varietal straw strength and growth regulator programmes.
Its yield potential looks very good but some crops which got a prolonged dry spell after application of the main split of nitrogen have poor tiller counts.
Cassia, despite it's very poor rating for rhyncosporium resistance, is looking very good even with relatively modest spray programmes. The six-row varieties look very promising and have shown, yet again, their ability to perform well on poorer soils. As always they will perform best on good quality soils.
The importance of combine and baler hygiene is evidenced on farms, where the start of recent years' harvests has seen 'new' grass or broad leafed weed problems.
Make sure your own combine is cleaned properly - check grain tanks, conclaves and cleaning shoes. Airlines and even leaf blowers are very useful, but make sure that the dislodged material does not simply become another source of infection.
Those with the higher tech machines have a pre-set clean-out cycle which can be used when moving from field to field or from a heavily weeded area. Second-hand, imported machines or contractor machines should be thoroughly cleaned before entering the farm. When harvesting try to concentrate on the clean areas first, then the dirty areas followed by cleaning before moving to the next field.
That will be easy to implement in a good harvest but not practical in a more difficult season.
Balers can also be a significant source of weed contamination.
Balers must also be cleaned and when moving from weed infected fields, the last of the straw removed (short bale) before moving. Tractors both underneath and back end can carry weed seeds and should also be cleaned before work.
This work will not alone reduce your future weed control costs but also minimise fire risk.
Most crops of winter wheat have Septoria lesions on leaf 4 and many have lesions on leaf 3. The cleaner crops generally got a T0 which allowed for later application of T1; a T1.5 provided addition protection before T2.
The head spray, due at the start of flowering has been applied to some crops and is due on most other crops this week/early next week.
Fusarium risk is highest with wet weather during flowering Best control is achieved with prothioconazone, metconazole and tebuconazole. Add chlorothalonil and a product such as Corbel if mildew is present.
Spring barley is looking very promising in the midlands.
Many farmers ignored advice to use aphicides to minimise risk of BYDV transmission, and while the occasional virus infected plant is evident, I have yet to see any crop this year with significant virus.
Most of the crops are in fields on which an insecticide has not been used in recent years and while aphids are certainly present so too is their major predator - the ladybird - in large numbers. Virtually all T1s are completed. The T2 should be applied with the first awns emerging and will consist of chlorothalonil + triazole + SDHI (or strob).
Many beet crops got off to a tough start this year, with crop moisture stress making it difficult to apply a herbicide.
However, crops are now well advanced and the higher rates that can be applied, combined with oil, will enable clean-up - unless weeds were allowed to get strong.
Bethanol Maxxpro + oil will control most weeds but add Debut for charlock, Goltix for lamb's quarter/orache and Venzar for knotgrass and cleavers.
The area under protein crops has dropped by approximately 500ha from last years 8,167 ha, and will bring payments closer to €400/ha. Beans and other protein crops have performed well on farms since their re-introduction in the mid 1980s.
Any year that they underperformed was well compensated the following year with increased yields and reduced costs.
Last year's poor bean yields, and of course high cereal straw prices, did not justify the decision to reduce area. Last week's rain has put most of this year's bean crops into high yield potential.
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