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Monday 10 December 2018

Spring crop intakes back by up to 30pc and bean yields take a battering

A combine harvests wheat in a field of the Solgonskoye private farm outside the Siberian village of Talniki in Krasnoyarsk region, Russia September 7, 2018. Picture taken September 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/File Photo
A combine harvests wheat in a field of the Solgonskoye private farm outside the Siberian village of Talniki in Krasnoyarsk region, Russia September 7, 2018. Picture taken September 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/File Photo
Spring barley
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

Last week saw the 2018 harvest coming to a close. While there are still pockets of spring barley and particularly beans yet to be harvested, especially in the west, north-west and some parts of the north-east where some late sown crops on heavy land are still maturing the bulk of this years' harvest is over.

Generally, yields of spring crops, especially spring barley were very disappointing with yields commonly reported at between 1.5 to 2 tonnes per acre. Merchant stores tell the real story with many intakes back 20 to 30pc.

This is only going to add to the already serious fodder shortage that has long been flagged. This shortage, has in turn, I understand led to a significant fall in store cattle prices of €70 to €120 per head with many farmers who have reasonable fodder supplies opting to sell their fodder rather than buy in cattle for the winter.

Beans

Bean yields have also been particularly disappointing with little or no reports of any yields above 1 tonne per acre. Some spring oil seed rape was cut last week with reports of 0.75 tonnes to 1.25 tonnes per acre also disappointing.

There is a substantial interest in winter barley (and winter wheat) planting this autumn. I understand that this is likely to be the same across Europe where spring crops have also failed to perform. Caution must be exercised when deciding the cropping plan for next year. We would do well to remember the years, relatively recently, that spring barley out performed winter barley and, no doubt it is still a good idea not to "put all the eggs in one basket". Winter barley seed supply is already tight even though planting of this crop should be delayed in most areas until into October. Later planting will minimise the BYDV risk.

It could also be beneficial to consider the use of Latitude dressed (for Take All) winter barley seed especially for second and third barley situations. In addition, if considerable areas of the crop are to be sown some forward selling should be considered. If you look at prices over the last 10 years, the average price paid is likely to have been close to €140 per tonne and certainly seldom hit the €200 as it did this year.

Forward prices

There have been indications over the last few weeks of prices of €175 even up to €200 per tonne for green grain for harvest 2019 and growers should carefully monitor prices and consider locking in up to 50pc of the expected yields at these prices. This will provide some buffer should the expected switch (and possibly higher yields) lead to an increased grain harvest in 2019.

Post-harvest management of stubbles is essential and should be part of your integrated pest management (IPM) programme.

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This will help in the control of the various pests likely to be encountered especially grass weeds. Stubble cultivation and glyphosate treatments should be tailored to suit the weeds present.

Cover crops: While many dairy and cattle feeders have been slow to enter contracts with tillage growers in the Fodder Incentive Scheme there is no doubt that there has been a significant increase in areas planted when GLAS cover crops are included. It would be fair to assume that yields from these crops, which were sown early and are already emerged will be good.

This will be the cheapest feed source, considering likely ration prices and offers growers an opportunity to generate additional income this year. Sowings from now on will not produce the same bulk or returns but will still be worthwhile particularly if left in the ground until the spring.

However, late spring usage brings its own problems, as many experienced this year so care is advised.

Remember the latest date for sowing cover crops for GLAS is September 15. Remember also to hold onto the seed labels in case of inspection

Winter oil seed rape

It is now getting too late to plant oil seed rape. This crop has performed well relative to other crops this year so some will still be tempted to sow for another week or so. This may still work out as soil temperatures and moistures are still good.

Good seed bed preparation is essential and weed control is recommended with the pre-emergence application of either Butisan S or Katamaran Turbo depending on likely weed problems.

Seed rates should be increased to ensure the establishment of at least 30 to 35 plants per square metre. Sow at 45-55 (hybrids) or 60-80 (conventional) seeds per square metre.

Now is the time, at emergence to monitor flea beetle activity damage. If there is significant "shot hole" symptoms crops should be treated with a suitable pyrethroid insecticide such as Lambda, Karate etc.

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

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