Don’t rely on av­er­age thou­sand grain weight to set your drill

Irish Independent - Farming - - Cereals - Tim O’Dono­van TimO’Dono­vanisatil­lage­spe­cial­ist with­Tea­gas­catOakPark

ANY ce­re­als drilled in March 2013 were drilled into a ‘ per­fect storm’. The seed was grown dur­ing 2012, which was the worst sum­mer for 50 years in terms of ear disease pres­sure.

Then it was sown into what turned out to be the cold­est spring i n 50 years, which ex­tended emer­gence. It was a won­der that any of those seeds grew at all and just as well the sum­mer came as it did.

Crop stu­dents in Kil­dal­ton Col­lege found that the av­er­age es­tab­lish­ment was 70pc in the March-drilled Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture ce­real va­ri­ety tri­als.

All of the seed drilled in th­ese plots had a ger­mi­na­tion test of over 85pc, but a com­bi­na­tion of seedling dis­eases, pest at­tacks and ab­nor­mally cold weather meant that only seven out of 10 seeds sown made a plant.

It was the same story at farm level. Thin crops were one of the main topics at the all the Tea­gasc spring tillage walks that I at­tended. So what lessons can we learn from 2013? Ger­mi­na­tion and es­tab­lish­ment To start with ba­sics, the dif­fer­ence be­tween ger­mi­na­tion and es­tab­lish­ment needs to be clearly un­der­stood. Ger­mi­na­tion is the test that ei­ther you or the seed mer­chant pays for on the seed.

If your seed has 90pc ger­mi­na­tion, then nine out of 10 seeds you drill will ‘ s t r i ke’ and pro­duce a small shoot. In Ire­land, only seed with a ger­mi­na­tion rate of at least 85pc can be sold. Es­tab­lish­ment is the num­ber of seeds drilled that make a full plant.

You can only count or as­sess es­tab­lish­ment once the plants have come above ground. The es­tab­lish­ment score is there­fore a com­bi­na­tion of the ger­mi­na­tion test and any losses af­ter drilling due to field con­di­tions, pest at­tack, stones and so on.

The dif­fer­ence be tween ger­mi­na­tion and es­tab­lish­ment are usu­ally small, but in a bad sea­son, such as 2013, they were quite sig­nif­i­cant and ac­counted for a lot of the vari­a­tion in yield. Seed health, qual­ity and size The Depart­ment’s seed cer­ti­fi­ca­tion lab­o­ra­tory in­di­cates that ger­mi­na­tion per­cent­ages of spring ce­real seed tested to date are above av­er­age and disease lev­els are be­low av­er­age.

The usual care should be taken to con­sider any de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in seed qual­ity dur­ing dry­ing or stor­age on farm. If you stored seed on farm, from last spring, I would be slow to ad­vise you to use it and at the ver y least en­sure it is well tested be­fore drilling.

In gen­eral, the thou­sand grain weight (TGW) is high in seed lots this year. While this usu­ally im­plies good ger­mi­na­tion, vigour and low lev­els of disease, it is still ad­vis­able to have home-saved seed tested.

Re­mem­ber that you are legally obliged to pay any r oy­alti es t hat ari s e from home-saved seed. The Plant Roy­alty De­vel­op­ment Of­fice (PVDO) has a ver y handy cal­cu­la­tor on their web­site that will do this sum for you ( It is il­le­gal to sell or barter home-saved seed.

There can be a big vari­a­tion of TGW, even within va­ri­eties.

Some va­ri­ety trial data that I saw this year had a 10-point gap be­tween the low­est and high­est TGW sam­ple. How­ever, it usu­ally falls within a band of plus or mi­nus three TGW points.

The key mes­sage from this is not to rely on av­er­age va­ri­ety TGW to set your drill. Ask your mer­chant for the TGW or test home-saved seed. Over the past few years, the TGW has of­ten been printed on seed bags.

This is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment by the seed trade and hope­fully it will be ex­tended to all cer­ti­fied seed in the fu­ture.

Cer­ti­fied seed of­fers grow­ers high ger­mi­na­tion ca­pac­ity, pu­rity of sam­ple, min­i­mum lev­els of weed seeds, and treat­ment against seed-borne dis­eases.

The Depart­ment has pro­duced a com­pre­hen­sive guide on seed cer tifi­ca­tion which is avail­able from their web­site un­der the Crops sec­tion.

LESSONS: Ce­re­als drilled dur­ing the per­fect storm that was March 2013 en­joyed an av­er­age es­tab­lish­ment of 70pc in a trial car­ried out by stu­dents at Kil­dal­ton Col­lege, Co Kilkenny; be­low, farm­ers as­sess es­tab­lish­ment - count­ing the plants that have come above ground in any given area

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.