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Tillage Update - 14th October 2021

The dry weather this week is a welcome boost for tillage farmers. Ciaran Collins, Teagasc Crops Specialist, discusses planting of winter cereals, weed and pest control, and maize harvesting.

Planting of winter cereals is in full flow and this is also a great opportunity to harvest maize and potatoes in good conditions. Weed and pest control will be on the agenda for farmers that planted earlier.


Target establishing 300 seeds/m² for conventional winter barley varieties this week. Thousand grain weights (TGW) are high for many varieties so be sure to check the bag before you sow. Most seed rates will be in the range of 190 – 220 kg/ha. (12 – 14st/ac). Sowing 200 seed/m² is fine for hybrids this week but increase to 220 seeds for sowing later in the month.

Larger winter wheat seed will need seed rates of 205kg/ha (13st/ac) and oats will generally be sown at 160kg/ha (10st/ac), but similar to the winter barley check the bag before you sow.   

Weed control

The best weed control will come from pre emergence application of herbicides. Target fields with difficult to control weeds especially annual meadow grass in winter barley. Suitable pre emergence herbicides include Flight, Stomp, Defy and Firebird. Avoid peri emergence application (leaf at coleoptile tip) in winter barley, as it can be hard on the crop especially this season, as crops have not been hardened off.

Maize harvesting

The target for maize harvesting is 30% dry matter and 30% starch. Higher dry matter is not desirable as it leads to greater losses due to spoilage and subsequent reduced intakes. The kernels (grain) in the cob is the main indicator of crop maturity.

To determine crop maturity collect a representative sample of cobs from the crop. Break the cob in half and remove a kernel from the cob. Squeeze the kernel to assess the level of milk in it. Observe the location of the milk line in the grain and once the top 75% of the kernel is hard the crop is close to harvest. If 100% of the kernel is hard, the whole plant dry matter is normally > 30% and the crop should be harvested immediately.   

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Find out more information and advice from the Teagasc Crops team here. 
The Teagasc Crops Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to tillage farmers every Thursday on Teagasc Daily