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Tillage Update - 26th November

Favourable weather for planting in late September and the first half of October has resulted in the winter crop area returning to near normal levels. Ciaran Collins, Teagasc Tillage Specialist takes a look at Winter crop establishment and talks about Slugs, Winter Oilseed Rape and "On Feirm Ground"

Winter Crop Area

Estimated area of winter crops planted in autumn 2019/20 & relevant comparisons




Diff (ha)

% Diff

Winter wheat




+ 56

Winter barley




+ 19

Winter Oats




+ 19

Total winter cereals





Winter Oilseed rape




- 7

  • Estimated figures
    ** DAFM BPS 2020 figures 

Earlier sown winter barley established well. In a survey I did at the start of November the average establishment rate on barley sown from October 2nd to October 15th was 82% (range 70 – 95). There was no difference between 2 row, 6 row and 6 row hybrid. Establishment rate decreased after that as conditions deteriorated and higher seed rates were used.


Grazing from slugs is common this year and late sown crops are at risk as a result of the recent wet conditions. It is important to monitor cereal crops to assess the risk of damage. The grey field slug is generally the most common species but recent research has shown that it is rarely totally dominant when overall numbers are high.

   Slug grazing is common this season

To monitor for slugs on emerged crops firstly check for signs of slug grazing. On emerging crops check if thresholds are exceeded before applying slug pellets as part of IPM. Set up a series of traps. Traps consist of a cover about 25cm across, with a small heap (20ml or 2 heaped teaspoonful’s) of chicken layer’s mash (NOT slug pellets) beneath.  Layers mash has been identified as the bait most likely to attract the greatest number of slugs when comparing baits.

Set up traps in a ‘W’ pattern but concentrate on areas known to suffer damage.  Leave traps overnight and examine early the following morning.   

Control is required when the threshold of 4 or more per trap are found. Control will be based on products containing Ferric Phosphate or Metaldehyde. It is important to use full rate as the number of baiting points is critical to achieving good control. Research in the UK has shown that Ferric Phosphate gives the same level of control as methaldehyde but slugs go underground to die so don’t look for dead slugs on the surface as evidence of control.

Winter Oilseed Rape

Many winter oilseed rape growers are waiting for soil temperatures to drop to apply Propyzamide (Kerb, Astrokerb) to control grass weeds. Kerb is best applied when soil temperatures at 30cm reach 10°C and are falling and where there is sufficient moisture in the soil surface layer for plant uptake.

Average soil temperature at Met Eireann weather stations in the key arable areas has been below 10°C (Cork airport 8.6°C, Johnstown Castle 9.2°C, Oak Park 8.6°C & Dublin airport 8.1°C) for the past seven days (Nov 17 – Nov 23) so growers can apply Kerb as soon as field conditions allow.

The Tillage Edge Podcast

In this week’s podcast Dr Noel Richardson, Lecturer and Director of HealthCORE in IT Carlow, spoke about farmers health and research carried out for the “On Feirm Ground” initiative. Through the podcast Noel pointed to the fact that farmers need to take better care of their most precious asset: their health.

The research with focus groups highlighted the major areas affecting farmer’s health which included; loneliness, feeling left behind, pressure to expand, inheritance issues and many others.  There is a perception that farmers can deal with these issues without help but this attitude appears to be changing slowly. 

Both male and female farmers and their spouses who were interviewed talked about how farming can be all consuming and feeling guilty about leaving the farm for other non-farming activities.  The researchers also talked to farm advisors and how they were well placed to recognise problems arising on farms.  The On Feirm Ground initiative aims to train advisors in these skills which will help to recognise and broach these topics with farmers.

Noel stressed no matter what problem is on the farm the best method of solving the problem is to talk to someone. This could by a spouse, friend, neighbour or advisor.  The key is to start conservation.  A problem shared is a problem halved.


How you can listen?

Teagasc website: teagasc.ie/thetillageedge

iPhone: https://podcasts.apple.com/ie/podcast/the-tillage-edge/id1506790551

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/729PDD7VzlKP2tDJgo3H7K