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Tillage Update 27th July 2021

Mark Plunkett, Soil & Plant Nutrition Specialist reports on tillage topics currently. Here, Mark looks at the performance of winter barley crops. He also discusses in the field crop updates including fodder beet, soil structure problems, grass weeds, cover cropping and natural regeneration.

Winter Barley Harvest Near Complete   

Weather over the last few weeks have favoured the harvesting of winter barley crops & baling of straw with good grain yield reported. Soil moisture deficits continue to increase especially in the southeast speeding up the development of spring crops.  Over the last few days rainfall amounts have been small with predicted rainfall amounts low for the week ahead. 

In the Fields Crop Update

Cover Cropping / Natural Regeneration

With the majority of winter barley harvested there is now a great opportunity to establish a green cover to help take up any remaining nutrients after winter barley crops.  Cultivation of stubbles will help stimulate natural regeneration and is good practice to help protect soils over the coming weeks plus helps reduce difficult weeds to control such as grass weeds (wild oats / meadow grasses etc..) before the next cereal crop.  It also provides the window to establish a cover crops such as fodder rape / mustards / vetches / phacelia etc which are very effective at reducing nitrate leaching, helping to add soil carbon and improve soil structure.  Sow cover crops over the coming days to take advantage of maximising cover crop production and aim to roll seedbeds to conserve soil moisture.

Fodder Beet

The recent dry and hot weather is very favourable to beet crops and crops have developed quite well over the past number of weeks.  Despite the cold and wet April and May crops are developing well with good yield potential.  Where foliar diseases are present select a suitable fungicide and apply over the coming days / weeks to control beet leaf diseases.

Soil Structure Problems

The dry soil conditions and high soil moisture deficits (SMD’s) present the ideal window to carry out subsoiling where soil compaction is present.  Take out the spade and examine the top 25 to 50cm of soil to identify the presence of soil compaction.  This will ensure that the sub-soiler is operated at the correct depth to maximise soil cracking effect under the current dry soil conditions.  For further information on soil structure assessment / videos please check out https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/soil--soil-fertility/soil-quality/.

Grass Weeds

Devastating grass weeds such as black grass are reported to be on the increase in tillage fields.  Now is the ideal time to walk fields of spring crops and assess for the presence of grass weeds.  Early detection is vital to stop the spread of these weeds as they have an enormous ability to produce seed for example a single black grass plant can produce up to 6 million seeds.

Identify weeds present and there location in fields.  Carry out hand rouging where populations are low or alternatively desiccate large areas if seeds are not already set.

In addition good machinery hygiene is critical to stop the spread of grass weeds.  Clean down machines before and after entering a field to reduce the spread of grass weeds will be time well spend to stop the future spread of these aggressive grass weeds.

The Tillage Edge Podcast

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.