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Tillage Update 22nd April 2021

Mark Plunkett, Soil & Plant Nutrition Specialist reports on tillage crops and how they are developing in the southeast. April has been a very cold, dry month with frequent night frost and showers of hail stones. This has slowed crop growth and development compared to other years. Get the update here

On the plus side with dry weather and good soil conditions the majority of spring cereals are planted. Fodder beet and maize plantings have started and good progress in many counties at present.

In the Fields Crop Update

Winter barley

Winter barley crops have developed well over the last month where crop development ranges from GS 31 (1st node) to flag leaf peeping on very advanced crops.  Some crops are showing signs of stress due to recent cold/ frosty nights / harsh weather and there is visual symptoms of spray reaction / nutrient deficiencies present.

Winter wheat

Winter wheat crops again look well and crops have continued to develop at a slower pace than normal due to lower temperatures.  The crops that I visited ranged from leaf 4 fully emerged to leaf 3 fully emerged.  Crop establishment method (conventional v direct drill) and sowing date are very evident on crops for example direct drilled crops have a leaf less at present compared to convention drill crops.  Crops are now at or approach a key timing in terms of effective disease control – leaf 3 emergence. It is important to examine crops and identify which leaves have emerged.  The majority of crops that I visited leaf 3 was 30 to 50% emerged (see figure 1).  These crops will required the T1 fungicide in 7 to 10 days’ time.  Weather conditions are forecasted dry for the next 7 days which will further reduce disease pressure.

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Figure 1:- Winter wheat showing leaf 3 ~ 30 to 40% emerged from a crop in east Wicklow.

For more information on the correct identification of leaf 3 and disease control see videos below:

Watch The Importance of Identifying Leaf 3 for Septoria Control in Winter Wheat with Shay Phelan & Dr Stephen Kildea

Watch Un rolling & identification of wheat leaves with Michael Hennessy

Spring cereal plantings

Spring cereal plantings are near complete and crops have been sown into very good seedbeds over the last 3 to 4 weeks. Soil moisture levels maybe an issue on some soil types due to low rainfall amounts in April.  Crops range from emergence to 1 to 2 tillers present. The current cold weather is slowing down crop development and crops are taking longer to emerge. Birds are causing some damage in fields recently planted from scratching for seeds to pulling emerging plants – best to keep an eye on crops over the over the next week or so.

Apply 1st nitrogen (N) application if not already applied once crops move into the tillering phase.  Nitrogen topdressing can be either applied in a single application or can be split in a 70:30 split. Earlier sown crops will be approaching the stage for weed control, assess weeds present and select a suitable herbicide once conditions improve for better spray activity.

Fodder Beet

Fodder Beet sowing is progressing well and seedbed conditions are excellent.  There is a change in 2021 to sugar beet herbicides so check with your advisor on product changes.

Forage Maize

Forage Maize planting is under way in many counties and soil conditions are excellent. Maize is a high nutrient demanding crop, check soil test results and ensure soil pH is above pH 6.5.  Calculate crop P and K requirements based on soil test fertility levels.  Cattle slurry is a very effective way of supplying a large proportion of the crops P & K requirements.  During planting make sure to conserve soil moisture to ensure good activity of soil acting herbicides.

Nutri  2 Cycle Trial

Nutri  2 Cycle Trial on the farm of Sylvester Bourke in Co. Wicklow is in its 3rd year investigating the role of bio based fertilisers in supplying tillage crops with major plant nutrients such as carbon, N, P & K in the bio economy.  For an update on this trial in 2021 see Mark Plunkett & Cathal Redmond, Johnstown Castle discussing the trial bio-based fertiliser treatments in this short video 

And don’t forget to register for the Teagasc monthly crop agronomy webinars with the next one on May 4th. For more information go to: https://www.teagasc.ie/tillagemonth/