In­dian sum­mer has paved the way for bumper win­ter plant­ings

Irish Independent - Farming - - OUR FARM - PAT MIN­NOCK

THE weather that we missed out on last spring has been more than com­pen­sated for this au­tumn with ex­cel­lent con­di­tions for sow­ing. As a re­sult, win­ter plant­ings have been very good.

It is dif­fi­cult to get an ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tion of ar­eas sown to the var­i­ous crops how­ever, there is no doubt that win­ter bar­ley sow­ings are up sig­nif­i­cantly on last year, pos­si­bly by 25pc to 30pc and it ap­pears likely that the area sown could ex­ceed the pre­vi­ous high lev­els of 2016.

The per­cent­age of hy­brid bar­ley would also ap­pear to be higher, re­flect­ing results achieved this har­vest.

While wheat sow­ing is con­tin­u­ing it is likely that the fi­nal area will re­main sim­i­lar to last year’s level.

The likely rea­son for no sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in this crop is the ab­sence of suf­fi­cient “en­try” crops. Thank­fully, grow­ers ap­pear to have taken it on board that there is likely to be a ma­jor yield (and in­come) penalty if break crops are not the main crop to pre­cede wheat. 2018 was gen­er­ally a poor year for plant­ing of break crops.

Yield penal­ties of up to one tonne per acre were again ob­vi­ous in sec­ond and con­tin­u­ous wheats.

Win­ter oat plant­ing also ap­pears to be up sig­nif­i­cantly on 2017. How­ever, this is from a very low base and, from what I un­der­stand from the seed trade, it ap­pears that much of the oat seed avail­able has al­ready been sown and there­fore likely to leave a seed scarcity for the spring.

Sow­ing and seed bed con­di­tions have been ex­tremely good this au­tumn with the re­sult that es­tab­lish­ment lev­els have been at a very high level, even up to 95pc in cases.

Plant counts for win­ter bar­ley are gen­er­ally high partly be­cause of the good es­tab­lish­ment rates but also be­cause of the high seed rates used. Win­ter bar­ley seed qual­ity ap­pears to have been good but it was smaller than usual. The thou­sand grain weight (TGW) of most va­ri­eties were lower than nor­mal.

Many grow­ers ap­pear to have ig­nored the mes­sage this gave in that seed rates were not re­duced ac­cord­ingly.

This has re­sulted in higher plant stands. Some of my Knowl­edge Trans­fer (KT) group mem­bers have in­di­cated plant stands of up to 500 plants per square me­tre in cases. This is too high and will bring its own man­age­ment chal­lenge.

It may lead to greater dis­ease pres­sure and chal­lenge the stand­ing abil­ity es­pe­cially of some va­ri­eties. No doubt a hard win­ter will help to re­duce plant stands; how­ever, with the num­bers present and the good es­tab­lish­ment lev­els this may not be sig­nif­i­cant.

While this is not a ma­jor cause for con­cern it is likely to de­mand bet­ter and more timely man­age­ment de­ci­sions next spring. The high plant stand will likely de­mand dif­fer­ent ac­tions from our ex­pe­ri­ences over the last few sea­sons.

Cold weather

Con­sid­er­ing many of the crops weren’t sown un­til into Oc­to­ber, and par­tic­u­larly with most win­ter bar­ley seed treated with Redigo De­ter, the re­cent cold weather will prob­a­bly elim­i­nate the need for a sup­ple­men­tary aphi­cide.

Many crops did not emerge be­fore the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber, nev­er­the­less each sit­u­a­tion and the on­go­ing weather must be mon­i­tored as the win­ter ap­proaches.

Cover crops

It has been very no­tice­able over the last few weeks that cover crops, par­tic­u­larly short term grass, have been saved. It ap­pears the for­age sit­u­a­tion has im­proved and when you con­sider that, at this time last year, stock had al­ready been housed for 4-6 weeks the fact that most stock is still out the de­mand for for­age will also be greatly re­duced.

Yields of many of the for­age crops, par­tic­u­larly the later sown ones, has been dis­ap­point­ing.

Con­ser­va­tion of the cover crops has proven dif­fi­cult in many cases with rel­a­tively high ni­trates and low dry mat­ter lev­els. Graz­ing in situ has proven to be the best us­age method es­pe­cially when well man­aged.

Potato har­vest

Potato har­vest­ing is in full swing and again yields are sig­nif­i­cantly (up to 20pc) back on pre­vi­ous years. PHOTO: ROGER JONES How­ever, higher prices again have helped, with prices up to €500 per tonne. Sim­i­larly, crops of fod­der beet are show­ing re­duced yields but the higher prices of €50 to €60 per tonne will also help to com­pen­sate.

Maize yields were sim­i­larly re­duced but dry mat­ter lev­els are higher and the price avail­able of €60 to €70 per tonne have also less­ened the im­pact of the lower yields.

Each grower should un­der­take a full re­view of the sea­son at this stage. It is likely that most will be dis­ap­pointed with yields but may be pleas­antly sur­prised when the fi­nan­cials are fac­tored in as the higher price for pro­duce and par­tic­u­larly straw should help to al­le­vi­ate the is­sue of lower yields.

Un­der­tak­ing this re­view and com­par­ing with pre­vi­ous re­views will con­firm the crops most suit­able to each farm. This should be used when plan­ning for next year’s crops.

De­tailed fore­cast: page 35

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