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Tillage Update June 4th

04 June 2020
Type Media Article

Included in the crops update this week is the impact of the drought on crops, grass weeds in tillage crops, and blight control in potatoes

Drought Impact on Crops

The effect of the current drought on winter and spring crops, mostly on the eastern side of the country, is likely to similar to that experienced in 2018.  Crops in the south are more promising but still need more rain to fulfil their potential.  Some of the most severe impacts of the drought include

  • Earlier harvest with reduced yields, higher screenings
  • lower straw yields
  • reduced incomes
  • high value crops are being irrigated where possible, although water shortages are being experienced already in some parts.

Possible crop impacts of the drought.

  • Decisions on fungicides that still have to be applied to crops should be based on the disease pressure and the potential yield. Many crops will not justify spending any more money.
  • Harvest is likely to be 2 weeks earlier than normal in many areas so preparations by farmers and grain intakes would need to take this into account. 
  • Unlike 2018 the drought currently being experienced in Ireland and the UK seems unlikely at this stage to impact greatly on the market prices for grains.
  • National grain yields are going to be significantly reduced with the overall grain harvest below 2 million tonnes.
  • Lower yields and higher screenings may cause some premium crops to struggle to make minimum specifications e.g. malting barley
  • Straw yields are going to be significantly to be lower than 2019 so this may result in increased demand and possibly higher prices.
  • Earlier harvest may allow earlier planting of catch crops, there is likely to be good growth in these crops, where adequate moisture is available, so there is the potential for these to be grazed where this is an option.
  • The earlier harvest should facilitate the planting of winter oilseed rape crops.
  • Incomes from the harvest are likely to be significantly lower in 2020 so many growers may need to talk to their banks regarding credit facilities.

Grass weeds in tillage crops

Many grass weed species are heading out now or are actually flowering so this is a good chance to identify and assess the problem on farms. Different grass weeds will have different management strategies so accurately identifying the species is critical to controlling the weed in the future. Once the grass weed has been identified then and only then can a management strategy be put in place. All control measures need to be adopted including both cultural and chemical methods. 

The first method of control is preventing seed return, where possible rogueing of the weeds should be carried out. If this is not possible for weeds such as blackgrass then crops should be desiccated to prevent seed return. Blackgrass seeds become viable early in June so prompt action is necessary where there is a problem.

In the video below, Jimmy Staples discusses preventing seed return as part of an IPM approach to controlling grass weeds. For many grass weeds action is needed now as when they have flowered they will have viable seeds which will be returned to the seed bank if they are left untouched.

Grass weed survey

The Teagasc-led ‘Enable Conservation Tillage (ECT)’ has launched an important online survey to assess growers’ awareness of herbicide-resistant weeds as well as adoption of resistance management strategies.

The survey will answer the following questions:

  • What weed species do growers find problematic or difficult to control on their farm?
  • Do growers perceive weed resistance as an increasing issue on their farm?
  • Have growers already applied measures to reduce weed resistance build-up?
  • What do growers plan for the future to manage weed resistance?

The outcome will increase researchers/advisors understanding of growers’ concerns about resistance problems, and also develop tailor-made weed management programme and knowledge transfer activities.

Blight control in potatoes

While the current drought is keeping blight at bay when the weather does eventually break crops will need to be protected. In the below video, Dr. Steven Kildea discusses how to control blight in potatoes and also the new EU 37 A2 strain and its possible implications to blight control strategies.

Many crops are being irrigated at the moment due to the drought but also for control of common scab. There have been a number of questions as to the obligation of growers to register extraction points this year, under the EU Water Framework Directive anyone who extracts more than 25 cubic meters of water per day must register the extraction point. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government have set up a website https://www.edenireland.ie/ for growers to register their intention to extract water.

The Tillage Edge - Podcast

On the Teagasc Tillage Edge podcast this week Michael Hennessy was joined by Eoin Lyons, Teagasc Boortmalt Joint Program advisor who chatted about the current drought effects on spring barley and the final crop management decisions.  Eoin told the Tillage Edge there is quite a difference in crops across the south east region where he works.  South Wexford has quite good crops whereas the further north (probably from Bunclody) crops are poorer with some very disappointing crops evident now.  The past couple of weeks dry and very warm weather were particularly hard on these spring crops.

Eoin pointed out there is very little disease but growers should assess crop potential.  Where potential is good a normal fungicide program is advised but where yields are likely to be low then reducing fungicides costs is the prudent thing to do.  Eoin also pointed out that growers should examine fields in the coming weeks for grass weeds like wild oats and canary grass and hand rogue where possible.  If this is not possible then crop burn off may be the most prudent control.  In all cases drawing any infected patches on a map for reference is essential.

Virtual crop walk

Teagasc held a virtual crop on Thursday 28th May with reports of spring crops from around the country. There was a wide range of crops discussed some with good yield potential and others with poor potential. We also discussed grass weed control on tillage farms.