Weighing up the spring tillage options
Schemes such as Greening, GLAS and share farming are changing the tillage landscape, but barley and wheat still dominate the 2015 spring sowing programme
Over the next few weeks growers will be trying to get into fields to commence their spring sowing programme. As usual the main crop to be sown will be spring barley. Spring wheat still struggles to give good returns, and it can be a more expensive and less profitable crop.
Crops will perform better if sown in a timely fashion, particularly if sown in good conditions into a good seed bed. Sowing rates should reflect seed size, date and seed bed conditions.
Certified seed wheat in 2015 appears to be generally larger than normal with a higher Thousand Grain Weight (TGW). Seed barley is closer to the recommended list ratings. The Department of Agriculture recommended list for wheat, barley and oats can be found on the department's website www.agriculture.gov.ie. There is a comprehensive description of each variety also included in this list.
Farmers who generally only grow malting barley would be best advised to consider three crops if they plan to grow over 30ha in 2015.
There is a possibility that malting barley growers will get away with just the one crop if they undertake to plant a cover- or catch-crop after next harvest. This is known as equivalence. To qualify for this the farmer must be accepted into the new agri-environment scheme -GLAS - and must undertake to sow all stubbles to a cover crop before mid-September.
Varieties continue to improve with breeding. However, there are different characteristics for each variety. For example, some varieties suit some situations more than others. In very rich land or after a break crop you should chose a variety with strong straw characteristics and standing ability that is not susceptible to lodging.
Mickle, for example, has a very short straw with good resistance to lodging, while Shada has a moderate straw length and a good resistance to lodging. The variety Paustian is provisionally recommended and is an improved version of Propino. Farmers wishing to minimise their fungicide spend should chose varieties that are most disease resistant.
There is a wide choice with some of the newer varieties obviously showing better resistance. One of the most devastating diseases in barley is rhynchosporium. Many varieties are specifically bred for resistance to rhynchosporium.