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Spring -Crop Management and Sowing

John Galvin, Teagasc Drystock and Tillage Advisor, Galway has advice here on winter barley management and spring barley sowing. He gives an update on the new Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM) scheme as part of Basic Payment Scheme application for 2021 and introduces the Area Monitoring System (AMS)

The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application pack containing maps and list of parcels has hit farmer’s letter boxes and the Agfood online system for applying has gone live at the time of writing. This will urge growers to focus their minds on their cropping plans for 2021.  Rainfall recorded at Athenry weather station (Met Eireann) between 1st January to 18th February 2021 stands at 250mm/10 inches, as a result land still remains unfit to travel and field work has to be put on hold until weather conditions improve.

August and September of 2020 were dryer than previous years which gave greater opportunity for the sowing of winter crops, in particular winter barley. So although spring barley will remain to be the dominant crop for cereal growers in the west, its area will be reduced on last year.

Winter Barley Management

Walk crops and observe for “yellowing” and carry out plant counts, with a target of 1100-1200 shoots/m2. An application of Nitrogen 50kgN/ha along with 38KgP/ha and 100kgK/ha on soils at Index 3 is vital in Late February/Early March especially if growth increases and to replace offtakes. Earlier but smaller Nitrogen applications may be warranted on backward/thin crops to help them close in. The main Nitrogen dressing of 130-150kgN/ha may be given in two splits at GS 30-31. Annual meadow grass and broad leaf weeds will need urgent control by herbicides, especially on crops that received no autumn herbicide, however active growth is required before application. For disease prevention and control, 2-3 fungicide applications along with a plant growth regulator will be required at key growth stages of the crop; end of tillering (late March), first node (Mid-April) and flag leaf stage(Early-Mid May). These are approximate dates and will vary from farm to farm and indeed field to field.

Spring Barley Sowing

Early to Mid-March is the ideal time to sow barley with the yield potential declining after mid-April.

When picking a variety it is important to consider what performed well in previous seasons and also to refer to the Department of Agriculture Recommended List to compare the agronomic and quality characteristics. RGT Planet leads the way regarding yield potential 

but if there are concerns about lodging especially in fields coming from ley or on exposed sites SY Errigal or Gangway may be safer options as both have better ratings for straw breakdown and resistance to lodging. Check variety availability with your local merchant. Certified blue label seed is retailing at approximately €550/tonne.

In order to grow a high yielding barley crop, 300-325 plants/M₂  are required to produce 1000 heads/M₂, with an establishment rate of 85-90%,  350-380 seeds/M₂ must be planted. This translates into 160-190kg/Ha or 10-12st/ac depending on the 1,000 grain wt. (TGW) of the seed been sown. High plant counts are vital as there is a direct correlation between grain numbers and yield in barley and unlike wheat and oats it cannot compensate for lower plant and tiller numbers.

Following on from correct sowing and good plant establishment, promoting plant tillering with timely Nitrogen applications, early weed intervention and prompt fungicide treatments (if disease is present) is key.

BPS 2021

There are no changes to the BPS greening requirements for 2021; Crop diversification applies for > 10Ha of Arable crops and Ecological Focus Areas apply for > 15Ha of Arable crops.

There is a new Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM) scheme that is designed to encourage farmers to increase soil organic carbon levels by chopping and incorporating straw from cereal crops (W&S Wheat, W&S Barley, W&S Oats, W&S Oilseed Rape & Rye). There is a minimum eligible area of 5ha and maximum of 40ha with a proposed payment of €250/ha (subject to EU & DAFM final approval of terms and conditions). Application for this scheme can be made whilst submitting the basic payment form which must be submitted on-line.

The protein payment scheme remains in place for 2021 for eligible crops (peas, beans & lupins) with a ceiling of €3M. The 2020 protein payment was finalised at €215/ha. What is new with regard to protein crops is that they are going to be monitored rather than checked by means of an Area Monitoring System (AMS) for 2021.

The Eye in the Sky

Is there an eye in the sky? - is the question we all knew the answer to. There are four of them (satellites) orbiting the earth every 5 days, more importantly they are now being phased in to use. The new much awaited CAP regulation that has yet to be finalised states that a new Area Monitoring System (AMS) will be mandatory on all claimed lands by 1st January 2024. As a transitional or phasing in of the AMS, protein crops will be monitored in 2021 by this method. The AMS is a system that provides “regular and systematic observation, tracking and assessment of agricultural activities and practices on agricultural area by Copernicus Sentinel Satellite data or other data with at least equivalent value”. The main objective of the AMS is to verify an activity over a given agricultural area, with the main drivers being minimising non-compliance, reducing administration and inspection controls and providing data for policy monitoring and implementation in the future.

As it approaches Mid-spring, we are heading fast into the busiest time of year on all farms livestock and tillage alike. I urge you all to stay safe and whilst Covid 19 still rages in the community, the threat of farm accidents and fatalities is also ever present and there is no vaccine for it. As farmers, your only weapon is to try and plan your workload and tasks. Ask the question, is what I’m about to do safe? Check and ensure your buildings, yards, machinery and equipment are in good safe working order. With schools remaining closed, child safety on farms must be kept a priority especially when it comes to machinery and livestock.  Bí Cúramach agus fan slán.

For more on Teagasc Tillage click here