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Teagasc National Tillage Crops Conference

Yield, grain prices and costs of production determine the profitability of tillage enterprises. The achievement of high yields and cost of production are in the hands of the growers. That was the message from the Teagasc National Tillage Crops Conference, which is taking place today, Thursday, 28 January, in Kilkenny. Dr John Spink, Head of Crops Research in Oak Park, said: “Growers have little control over grain prices in the short term; however, in the longer term the development of higher value markets for Irish tillage products is an objective of the FoodWise 2025 development strategy for Irish agriculture. Growers have direct influence on crop yields and the cost of production through the decisions they make.”

The conference focused on the technical improvements farmers can make on their own farms. Teagasc Crops Researcher, Dr Joseph Lynch outlined yield formation in winter wheat and the need to focus on maximising final ear number and prolonging grain filling to achieve high yields in Irish conditions. Dermot Forristal, Teagasc Crops Researcher spoke about the importance of crop rotation to maximise; cereal yields, the profitability of the whole rotation and control costs. He also identified the most viable non-cereal break crops for Ireland based on the recent Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine funded CROPQUEST project. Dr John Carroll, Teagasc Crops Researcher continued the theme of break crops, by outlining the work on optimising bean production in the Teagasc/IFA grain levy funded break crops programme.

The development of resistance to crop protection products can significantly increase the cost of production both in the short and the long term: Grass weeds have become an increasing problem for Irish tillage farmers in recent years with canary grass, brome, wild oats and more recently black-grass being the main problem weeds. However, these weed populations are still at manageable levels in Ireland. In the UK grass weeds are a big problem on tillage farms, with one fifth of English grain growers spending €120/ha to control blackgrass each year. Dr Sarah Cook of ADAS in the UK, outlined the mistakes made in England that allowed grass weeds to reach epidemic proportions and advised on what steps Irish growers could take to keep grass weed populations at manageable levels.

The development of insensitivity, or resistance, to fungicides in Septoria has been an on-going issue for more than a decade. Teagasc Crops Researcher, Dr Steven Kildea updated the attendance at the tillage conference on the results of the Septoria sensitivity monitoring and the discovery last autumn of resistance to the SDHI group of fungicides. He also gave advice for the coming season on how to slow the development of this resistance and stressed the importance of the whole industry complying with anti-resistance guidelines for future sustainability.

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