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To spend or not to spend on 2012 spray programme?

The weather this spring is playing havoc with our spraying programme. It is also affecting the uptake of the fertiliser.

We had the fertiliser out during the dry spell in April, and very quickly afterwards you could see yellow stripes coming into the crops because the fertiliser was sitting on the ground rather than being taken up by the plants. Then the rain came and the wheat and barley looked far healthier and were a deep green colour.

It's the cold that we have to worry about now, as the temperatures are much lower than normal for May. Last year, the mean air temperature in May was 11.4C. This year, so far it is 7.6C. The mean soil temperature for May 2011 was 12.6C, and this year it is 9.8C.

For our T1, our Cassia winter barley had growth regulator Moddus applied at 0.2l/ha. Our second spray programme was Siltra at 0.6l/ha, Balear at 0.6l/ha and Terpal at 0.4l/ha.

Normally the crop would need this, as the warm weather would produce a luscious soft growth. This year, however, that warm weather has yet to come and now the barley is looking green but very short. Hopefully hot days will arrive soon and the crop will recover.

Fresh lesions of rhyncho had already started to appear before the end of our three-week programme. That is why we used a slightly higher rate of Siltra.

We have a very expensive T1 programme this year as we were concerned about the high septoria level and had left it late to spray.

The third last leaf was fully unfolded. We left part of a tram line unsprayed to see the difference between that and the treated crop.

The whole crop had already received Bravo at the T0 timing. Our discussion group had invested in a septoria timer a couple of years ago and this year it has given three major warnings already. The part that we have left unsprayed will become more obvious as time passes. As the costs associated with growing wheat are increasing dramatically, we need to learn more about different programmes.

Some are much more affordable than others -- the chemical companies will tell you that the pricier option is an insurance policy. The only way to know is to try to compare one or two other products in the same field to see if there is a difference.

This is a very good tool to help make decisions for next year's spray programme. If there is no difference, do we really need to spend so much? Or will we see a difference in yield?

To get the best out of the SDHI chemistry, we need to spray onto a full flag leaf. Hopefully the weather will warm up and the flag leaf will be fully unfolded.

We will be using Cauldron at 1.5l/ha, Opus at 0,.25l/ha and Bravo at 1l/ha on the Einstein and Santiago winter wheats. These varieties are prone to yellow rust.

The JB Diego and Grafton are not as prone to yellow rust, so we will probably use a different chemistry -- Aviator or Seguris, depending on price.

The last of the fertiliser for this year has gone out on the winter wheat. It was brought up to 180 units per acre. The price of fertiliser is going up every year. This is the largest single contributor to the cost of growing corn, especially wheat.

Our discussion group enjoyed a walk around a member's farm recently. His crops were an example to us all on how to do it right.

What was he doing differently to group members? One of the most obvious things was organic manures. They provide a huge range of benefits to the soil and subsequently the crop.

We are at a disadvantage in that we have no animals, but we are looking into importing slurry, preferably pig slurry. If we can, we are also looking to get poultry litter, but it is scarce and expensive.

Helen and Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email:

Indo Farming