Why the omens look good for some rapid growth in late spring crops

Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

The very late spring is finally coming to a close, thankfully, and most growers can now move on to more normality and hopefully some good weather.

Up to late last week there were still some pockets of the country with crops to be sown and some of these may now be left fallow. Any areas left fallow would benefit from the sowing of a forage cover crop.

This will improve soil structure and provide an opportunity to apply organic fertiliser over the next couple of months. While the crop might be a useful source of income if used for grazing, it might also allow for some of these areas to be planted to a winter crop early next autumn.

Growers should also consider if some of these areas would be better sown to grass. There is a significant land market for grassland from livestock farmers.

While conditions last autumn and this spring should dictate a significant reduction in the tillage acres sown, this probably has not happened. It is difficult to get a complete handle on crop area sown. It is likely that the overall acreage will be back, but only by a small amount.

The seed trade indicate that the acreage of spring barley could actually be up around 6pc.

However, some of this expectation could be as a result of higher seed rates used. Spring barley seed did run out and merchants were quite glad to take returns as they had growers still willing to plant late last week and into this week.

While this late sowing was not ideal, my observations in the fields would indicate that once these crops were sown in good conditions they are now progressing very well and currently growth and development is excellent.

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In addition to the likely increase in barley sowings, it would appear that the maize plantings are significantly up with talk of a 60pc to 70pc increase.

It would also appear that the bean acreage is significantly down despite the likely higher premiums - it would appear a maximum of 8,000 hectares has been sown which could lead to a premium of approximately €150 per acre.

The yields and returns from the late spring crops will be determined by the weather and conditions over the next couple of months. At the moment the omens look good, with rapid growth. No doubt management of these spring crops will be significantly different this season.

All late sown spring crops should receive an aphicide at the two-leaf stage, with many probably requiring a second aphicide with the herbicide application.

Some crops are now at their ideal stage for early weed control. There is a wide range of herbicides available to suit all problems and all situations.

Mixtures of a sulfonylurea with any established contact herbicide can provide very good general solutions.

However, knowing your weeds is important particularly if you want to minimise your herbicide costs.

In most cases full rates will not be required, however if fields are known to be particularly dirty you should not scrimp on rates.

A new active, halauxifen-methyl, better known as Arylex, brings new options to the situation that are comprehensive and safe and is good on many of the ALS resistant weeds.

Crops are now growing rapidly and this could impact on issues such as root anchorage and lodging later in the season. Straw standing ability will be tested.

A robust PGR programme will be required. There may be a temptation to go easy on growth regulation to ensure greater straw volumes, considering the likely high price next autumn. However, it is better to have crops standing. In fact, straw volume does not reduce significantly with good growth regulation.

Winter crops are generally looking well and while disease levels have increased, the level is not generally a problem yet. Most winter wheats will require their T2 this week or next which should consist of a combination of an SDHI and a Triazole with a Strobilurin and a mildewicide included, depending on the disease present.

Awns are fully out on most winter barley crops and these should now receive their final fungicide. Winter oat crops are also at the stage for their main T2 fungicide application.

Trace elements

The main fertiliser and top dressing applications should be completed on spring crops, bringing spring barley up to 135kgs and spring wheat to 160kgs per hectare.

Make allowances for pH and yields. Considering the likely rapid development of crops trace elements will also play a vital role in maximising yield.

It is worth considering the addition of trace elements - particularly copper, zinc, magnesium - even in situations where levels are reasonably good as crops will benefit greatly during phases of rapid development and growth.

Winter oil seed rape is in full flower. You should keep a look out for weevils.

If you have to enter crops for weevil control, generally at late petal fall, you might consider including a fungicide such as Filan for schlerotinia control, especially if rape has been grown in the field previously.

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

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