Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Storms the final straw after a harvest that turned into a salvage operation

Maize harvesting has been badly affected by the recent storms, with growers in the southern half of the country hardest hit. Our picture shows contractor Alan Lucas cutting maize in Ballymacormack, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones
Maize harvesting has been badly affected by the recent storms, with growers in the southern half of the country hardest hit. Our picture shows contractor Alan Lucas cutting maize in Ballymacormack, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

The tillage harvest, which is not yet quite finished, will long be remembered for its difficulty and for the lost crops or salvage work required at the end, particularly in relation to straw. Storm Ophelia just added further to the woes especially for those who had beans and maize to harvest.

I understand many maize crops were flattened particularly south of a line across the midlands with the result that harvesting has been made a lot more difficult.

Some maize crops, even at this relatively early stage are a salvage operation. Most years we tend to get to November before serious losses incur in maize crops but Ophelia has brought this salvage operation forward.

Harvesters that could be expected to do 40 to 50 acres per day are struggling to do 12 to 15 acres because of lodging. At the time Ophelia arrived it was estimated that less than 30pc of the crop had been harvested and while harvesting progressed well last week, there is still significant work to be done.

BEET

Beet harvesting has also started and initial reports are reasonably good.

This is an excellent feed for winter cattle feeders, but the acreage grown is rela tively small.

There are a number of significant growers in the south and east, but due to the difficulty in selling the end product the areas grown are generally on contract.

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Good yields this year will provide some surplus but it is advisable for winter finishers to try and put a contract in place for next year to ensure continuity of supply throughout the feeding season.

Price indications for this crop are around €35 to €40 per tonne cleaner loaded and collected.

WINTER CEREALS

The harvest weather and the weather since harvest appears to have put a significant dampener on winter cereal planting.

With immediate weather projections looking poor this is probably understandable and is leading to a reluctance to plant.

Speaking to the seed trade it appears deliveries are reasonably normal but as of now it is impossible to estimate the likely level of planting. A best guestimate would be for a possible 20pc reduction in autumn planting.

Plantings of oil seed rape appears to be on a par with last year which in itself is relatively disappointing considering the yields and returns achieved by this crop in 2017. Higher planting was anticipated.

Both winter and spring sown beans appear to have yielded reasonably well with 2.5 to 3 tonnes plus per acre achieved. At a price indication of €160 per tonne this crop will leave a reasonable margin compared to cereals.

These yields and price will leave a margin equivalent to 10 to 11 tonnes of winter wheat.

This is even without considering the EU premium for beans. If farmers are considering winter beans this autumn it is still considered too early, it would be best to wait until November to commence sowing.

The main issue with winter beans is the ability to control chocolate spot so delayed sowings will help. Bird damage could also be significant.

Needless to say early sown spring beans are probably a better option but experience has taught us that it is very difficult to sow beans in February or early March.

This is a crop that needs a full six months to harvest and the winter sown crop has the significant advantage of a two to three-week earlier harvest.

All growers must allow for the three crop rule and if growers are considering cutting back on their winter plantings, calculations must be carried out. It should also be remembered and considered carefully that while conditions at the moment might not be conducive to sowing, leaving a large amount of land for spring sowing is probably not the best option either.

Experience has also taught us that early spring sowing can be difficult and yet again this harvest demonstrated the losses associated with late spring sowing.

Nevertheless, crops should not be sown for the sake of the three crop rule. Farmers should pick their most suitable fields for autumn sowing and leave heavy and wet land unsown. Ensure any sowing is done in good soil and seed bed conditions.

I would consider it more prudent to sow less acres in good conditions than try to sow too much in less than ideal conditions.

Remember, if all else fails leave land fallow or sow a cover crop next summer which will improve soils and lead to better returns in future years.

Again 2018 harvest prices do not look any better than the last few years so if crops are only going to break even improving soil structure makes more sense.

COVER CROPS

The general consensus was that the acreage of this crop was set to grow again.

However the weather has seen to it that the acreage may be reduced with much yet to be sown for GLAS. An extension to the end of October was given. If crops still have to be sown the potential best mixture is 6 kgs of mustard and 75 kgs of oats per hectare.

The crop must be left in situ until at least the end of January 2018 but to get more benefit from the crop the longer the crops are left the better. These should not be allowed go to seed as they will become weeds of the future.

PESTICIDES

Those farmers who have managed to sow some winter cereals are now considering their autumn pesticide programme. For winter oil seed rape, this has generally been completed.

Any crop that has had no herbicide applied will need to be treated with a product like Propyzamide. This product is best applied when the weather turns colder. Advanced crops should be monitored for light leaf spot and treated if necessary. A graminicide may be required for volunteer cereals.

With the removal of IPU from the market, the herbicide scene has changed. There is a greater emphasis and reliance on pre-emergence herbicides.

The increase in the incidence of sterile brome has also encouraged more growers to consider pre-emerge products on their barley crops.

The use of a product like Firebird pre-emergence, supplemented with a second application will improve sterile brome control.

The product Naceto has a higher rate of use of 0.6 litres and can be used in one application.


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There are a range of products (various combinations of Chlorotoluron, Diflufenican and Pendimethalin) available costing approximately €10-12 per acre which will give reasonable results when weed problems are limited.

Each product has merits for different weed spectrums and can be used in conjunction with additional products like Defy and Pontos for more complex situations.

There is a better choice of herbicides for wheat particularly in sterile brome situations with the like of Broadway Star, Alister and Pacifica. With the removal of IPU additional spring treatment will be more likely.

It is always best to use some product in the autumn to reduce the weed loading for the spring and depending on weeds surviving specific target chemicals can be identified to control the overwintering weeds.

Weed control on winter oats is extremely limited and is mainly reliant on DFF. The use of Lexus Class could be considered for grass situations in oats but this product can be extremely hot and must be used with care and before the end of the year.

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

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