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Tillage Update - 1st October

Mark Plunkett, Soil & Plant Nutrition Specialist discusses the importance of seedbed conditions when establishing winter cereals and meeting the crops nutrient early requirements in the first 3 to 6 weeks of establishment.

As autumn is upon us we move into the ideal window for planting winter cereals.  As soil and air temperatures have dropped in the last week, now is the ideal time for the planting of winter barley, then moving to winter wheat towards mid-October and finishing with winter oats.  Adjust seeding rates depending on variety, TGW, seedbed conditions and time of sowing. See video link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd7DOJcqnnc

Seedbed Preparation

As the old saying goes “well sown half grown” this is very true for winter cereals and planting into good seedbeds is the foundation for high yielding winter cereal crops.  Ensure soils are dry enough at ploughing and sufficient time is given for seedbed to condition before sowing. 

Lime - Check soil test results as winter cereals require a soil pH 6.5, where lime is recommended apply lime to ploughed soils and work into the seedbed prior to sowing.  This is essential for nutrient availability in the seedbed especially in the first 3 to 6 weeks as newly planted crops will be establishing root systems & tillering.  Crops that are well tillered heading into the winter period will have a good foundation in place for building yield potential for the coming season.

P & K - Apply P and K on very low to low fertility soils (P & K Index 1 and 2). Aim to incorporate or combine drill 0-10-20 at 100 to 200 kg/ha (0.8 to 1.6 bags/ac) at sowing time. Placing phosphorus (P) will increase the availability of the P in the seedbed.  Building soil P and K Index to Index 3 is essential for  top grain yields in winter cereals, a recent trial from Oak Park shows that increasing soil P index from Index 1 to 3 increased winter wheat grain yield by 1.75t/ha.


Trace elements – Check soil test results and identify soils on the farm that are low in either manganese (Mn), Copper (Cu) or Zinc (Zn).  Where trace elements are low ensure that seedbeds are in very condition at sowing time and where possible consolidate to improve the availability of minor nutrients such as Mn.  Copper and zinc can be applied to the seedbed as copper or zinc sulphate and quite effective at correcting a deficiency for up to 5 years. Manganese is best applied as a seed dressing or foliar application once the crop reached the 2 to 4 leaf stage as soil applied Mn tends to be in effective in correcting a deficiency.

Soil Sampling –Now is the ideal time to take fresh samples to plan lime and fertiliser applications for spring crops. Ensure soil samples are taken correctly for reliable results.  For tillage soils get major and minor nutrient analysis and request an S4 soil test (pH, LR, P, K, Mg, Mn, Cu & Zn).  Contact your local advisor to organise the taking of soil samples over the coming weeks.

Dr. Michael Gaffney, a Research Entomologist in Teagasc, joined Michael Hennessy on this week’s Tillage Edge podcast to discuss aphid control and BYDV.  

Michael explained that even though there is some infection initially from winged aphids, only a small proportion of the problematic aphids (Grain aphid and Bird Cherry Oat aphid) actually carry the virus.  It’s the offspring of these aphids which can spread more virus within the crop. Environmental factors such as temperature, wind and rain can affect how fast aphids reproduce and these factors dictate when control measures are best used.

Michael also discussed insecticide resistance and even though there is pyrethroid resistance across the country, pyrethroids will work well in most cases.  He stresses the need for constant field walking to observe both aphid numbers and also species type.  

For more episodes and information from the Tillage Edge podcast go to https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/crops/the-tillage-edge-podcast/