Last week's decision by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) that glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen is a major relief for farmers.
The EU has the most rigorous assessment procedure for introduction of new pesticides and for the renewal of existing approvals.
Glyphosate, which we have been using for the past 40 years, has been under evaluation since 2012. The current approval for the use of glyphosate as a herbicide is due to expire on December 31 this year.
Farmers are highly reliant on the use of glyphosate for weed control but more importantly farmers want and need to be seen to use products that will protect food quality and be safe for the consumer.
In order to form their opinion ECHA's Committee of Risk Assessment has reviewed thousands of scientific papers, engaged in a public consultation process and considered submissions from all interested parties.
The next stage for renewal of approval is that the European Commission considers the ECHA's opinion in order to determine approval under the Plant Protection Products (PPP) regulation.
That decision must be made by the end of November 2017. It is only after EU approval that member states can authorise the use of a plant protection product.
The member states are not obliged to grant approval when a product is approved by the Commission. It is up to each member state to grant, refuse or restrict the use at national level.
The Committee of Risk Assessment's opinion will be a major consideration for the Commission but does not guarantee that approval will be granted.
Most winter crops have gotten their first split of nitrogen. Wheat growth stages range from 13 to 26 and plant stands are from 200 to 350 plants/m2. Winter barley has similar plant stands but tiller counts are considerably higher. The thinner crops will benefit from an early application of plant growth regulator so as to promote tillering.
Late sown thin crops should be monitored carefully for slug damage as the current mild weather has given higher slug activity than normal. Winter oats have grown very rapidly and the first plant growth regulator is now due/overdue.
Winter Oilseed Rape
Crops will be due their second split of nitrogen before the end of the month and most will require a foliar application of boron and magnesium.
Monitor crops for light leaf spot by placing a sample of leaves from the crops into a plastic bag and examine the leaves 48 hrs later for spores.
If light leaf spot is present spray with Proline or Caramba/Folicur if growth is too vigorous.
Interest in beans has increased with the advent of the three-crop rule, the fact that it qualifies as an ecological focus area (EFA) and the bonus payment for protein. Soil conditions over the past three weeks have delayed bean sowing.
Sowing from now on will result in late harvesting and reduced yield potential. If you get a chance to sow this week make sure that you apply pre-emergence weed control products as soon as possible after sowing.
Where pre-emergence weed control has been missed Basagran may be used (on some varieties) and only after adequate wax has built up on the leaves. Consider a split dose treatment.
Weed control with Basagran is poor on pansy, fumitory, speedwell poppy and reddead nettle. Sow 40 - 45 seeds/m2.
Roll after sowing if soil conditions are good but remember that yield reductions of up to 40pc have been recorded where soil is compacted.
The most important factors are sowing into well prepared seedbeds and ensuring adequate fertility.
Soils dry from the surface down so that even when soil conditions look good in the top few inches it is important to check moisture levels at 6-8 inches before commencing work. Combine drilling of seed and fertiliser is still the best option where soil fertility is marginal.
Sowing spring wheat after this week will run you into a very late harvest.
Seeding rates for both spring wheat and spring barley should be close to 12 st/ac (190kg/ha).
PJ Phelan is a tillage advisor based in Tipperary and is a member of the ACA and ITCA