Op­ti­mum con­di­tions for win­ter plant­ing af­ter break in weather

Irish Independent - Farming - - OUR FARM - PAT MINNOCK

PLANT­ING of win­ter ce­re­als got into full swing over the last week or 10 days.

Weather and soil con­di­tions were ex­tremely good, with soil tem­per­a­tures slightly higher than nor­mal. It could be ex­pected that es­tab­lish­ment rates for all ce­re­als drilled so far will also be higher than nor­mal.

With seed sizes slightly smaller than nor­mal, this should have al­lowed for lower seed rates. Ob­vi­ously this can be a sig­nif­i­cant sav­ing as with the higher har­vest prices it is rea­son­able to ex­pect that seed prices will also be higher, par­tic­u­larly as some va­ri­eties of bar­ley and oats have run out and seed must be im­ported.

Bar­ley, wheat and oats can now be sown. How­ever, Redigo De­ter should still be in­cluded, par­tic­u­larly on bar­ley and wheat. This will give six to eight weeks’ con­trol of aphids, which will help to re­duce the risk of BYDV and, depend­ing on fu­ture weather, may elim­i­nate the need for an aphi­cide in Novem­ber.

Re­mem­ber that seed should not be held over as any seed dressed with Redigo De­ter this au­tumn can­not be used in 2019.

As a re­sult of the har­vest yields it is likely that there will be a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in win­ter ce­real acres planted and, as pre­vi­ously ad­vised, it may be worth con­sid­er­ing the for­ward sell­ing of some of these crops.

Prices con­tinue to fluc­tu­ate, but they re­main higher than the av­er­age of the last 10 years and, if watched care­fully over the next few months, op­por­tu­ni­ties may arise to for­ward-sell a por­tion of the po­ten­tial har­vest grain. This will help to min­imise price risks.

Re­gard­less of sow­ing dates, aim to es­tab­lish 250 to 300 plants per square me­tre of bar­ley, which should pro­duce 1,000 to 1,200 heads next har­vest. Aim to es­tab­lish 200 to 250 plants of wheat, while the tar­get for oats should be 350 to 400 plants.

To achieve these es­tab­lish­ment num­bers, seed bed con­di­tions, TGW of seed, va­ri­ety and sow­ing dates will de­ter­mine the seed rates to be used.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of pre­emerge her­bi­cides or very early post-emerge her­bi­cides to con­trol weeds — par­tic­u­larly An­nual Meadow Grass in win­ter

CATCH CROPS

Grow­ers have used the fod­der in­cen­tive scheme to plant catch crops out­side of their GLAS re­quire­ments, with the re­sult that there is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of catch crops planted.

The very early-sown crops look ex­tremely promis­ing and are well ad­vanced.

Graz­ing of crops not in GLAS is al­low­able af­ter eight weeks from the plant­ing date. It is un­clear from the Min­is­ter’s press re­lease if this could also ap­ply to crops planted for GLAS.

Crops should be al­lowed to es­tab­lish well, and graz­ing can com­mence as soon as re­quired af­ter the eight weeks. Strip graz­ing is the pre­ferred method. Care should be prac­tised in re­la­tion to the num­bers of an­i­mals graz­ing, es­pe­cially if the feed face is nar­row, to avoid poach­ing and dam­age to soil.

Again en­sure that you have an agree­ment with your ten­ant live­stock farmer that an­i­mals will be taken off the catch crop land early next spring, or ear­lier if there is ev­i­dence of soil dam­age start­ing.

While it ap­pears that €50 to €70 per acre over and above seed and es­tab­lish­ment costs was the price gen­er­ally agreed for this crop, this small ad­di­tional in­come can quickly turn out to be a sig­nif­i­cant cost if the crop and land is not man­aged prop­erly.

SOIL STRUC­TURE IM­PROVE­MENT

THIS has been a good year for nat­u­ral sub­soil­ing due to the drought con­di­tions.

There was ev­i­dence of deep crack­ing in many heavy soils, which has been good for al­le­vi­at­ing com­paction.

The ad­di­tion of or­ganic ma­nures and catch crop plant­ing also im­proves soil struc­ture. The longer these catch crops are left in the ground, the greater the im­prove­ment in soil struc­ture.

SOIL FER­TIL­ITY

Now is the time to check soil fer­til­ity lev­els in fields go­ing to be used for win­ter ce­re­als.

The most re­cent Ni­trates Reg­u­la­tions (SI 605 of 2017) now al­lows late ap­pli­ca­tion, up to Oc­to­ber 31, of up to 20kg P for win­ter ce­re­als where soils of P in­dex 1 and 2 ex­ist.

This must be in­cor­po­rated prior to or dur­ing sow­ing so should be ei­ther used in a com­bine drill or broad­cast be­fore sow­ing.

At this stage, grow­ers should be well aware of the ben­e­fits of phos­phate and the re­quire­ment for rea­son­able phos­phate lev­els to aid root de­vel­op­ment for emerg­ing plants, hence the rea­son for this al­lowance.

Other than this the use of chem­i­cal fer­tiliser is no longer al­lowed this au­tumn.

RO­TA­TION AND THREE-CROP RULE

Be­fore all plant­ing of win­ter ce­re­als is com­plete, make sure to check your over­all plant­ing per­cent­ages of crops.

The three-crop rule will op­er­ate again this year, but more im­por­tantly good ro­ta­tion to achieve higher yields is es­sen­tial.

If you can en­sure that at least 25 per cent of your area is sown to a break crop such as beans, oil seed rape, beet or oats, the chances of higher re­turns go­ing for­ward im­prove dra­mat­i­cally.

Mar­gins will again be un­der pres­sure in 2019 as no doubt there will be a sig­nif­i­cant down­ward pres­sure on prices, cou­pled with in­creased fer­tiliser and seed costs.

Straw will again play a ma­jor role in se­cur­ing good mar­gins for 2019, so con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to ar­range­ments with live­stock farm­ers for next au­tumn.

Now is the time to come to an ar­range­ment: straw for slurry deal with your live­stock neigh­bour.

Con­sid­er­ing the like­li­hood of high straw costs next har­vest and high fer­tiliser costs next spring, this is a win-win for both par­ties.

bar­ley — is es­sen­tial as there is no suit­able chem­i­cal to con­trol this weed post-emer­gence.There is a range of suit­able prod­ucts avail­able, cost­ing in the re­gion of €8-12 per acre.

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