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In the Field With Liam Leahy | February 2018

In the Field With Liam Leahy | February 2018

After a prolonged wet period of weather there is now a clear sign that spring has finally arrived. While ground conditions are still slow to dry, there is a noticeable stretch in the evenings and that is starting to encourage a little growth despite the low soil temp (3-5 °c). The winter sown crops that I visited over the last few days are a very mixed bag but considering the wet winter that they have experienced it is fair to say that in general they have wintered well.

Winter Barley

Winter Barley is by far the biggest crop in the area. The early sown crops both in Kinsale and East Cork are at GS 24-26 and really starting to show signs of hunger with an increasing tinge of yellow across most fields. The later crops which have established very well when you consider the sowing date of some of them, are at GS 14 -22 and are starting to struggle now and there is plenty evidence of recent slug activity to compound concern. In both situations I think that’s its crucial to get some Nitrogen or compound onto these crops immediately for different reasons.

Get these crops moving now with view to enhancing tiller survival in 3 to 4 weeks’ time with Plant Growth Regulators (PGR) where it’s considered necessary. It’s worth noting that PGR’s don’t create tillers but can help to preserve them, its nitrogen that drives the growth and develops the tillers. This PGR application will fit nicely where you are using a 3-spray fungicide program which has now become the norm.

Some of the crops haven’t received any herbicide yet due to poor ground conditions. These will be sprayed as soon as one can travel as delaying it until later will only force growers to using tank mixes with several products included and running the risk of crop damage or sever checking. It would be also wise for growers to check all sprayed crops for any winter weeds that may have come through including grass weeds, addressing where necessary and planning future action where grasses are an issue; it’s very important to get grasses properly identified and become proactive to them going forward as they can and will grow into a much bigger issue if left unattended.

Winter Wheat

While Winter Wheat is a relatively small crop in the area it’s looking particularly well. Again, a mixed GS from 14 to 24 holding a reasonable color and showing little effects of the prolonged poor weather. Here again there is evidence of recent slug activity and should be monitored carefully. Most of the Wheat crops are unsprayed but will be addressed as soon as the weather and ground obliges. These crops will be sprayed with a Broad Spectrum herbicide that will take care of all Broad leaf weeds, Wild Oats and grass weeds including Annual meadow grass plus Broom and Blackgrass where resistance isn’t an issue.

Again, it’s important to be able to recognize these grass weeds and create a plan going forward to deal with them both culturally, chemically (where possible) and rotationally. NPK compound will be applied to crops over the coming days. While it’s not as necessary as it would be to the barley crops there is no reason for holding back much longer as we are now at 20th February.

Winter Oats

Winter Oats are looking very well but again a small crop acreage in the area. Crops are ranging from GS 14 to 23. It’s worth noting that I haven’t seen a crop of oats that have suffered any pest damage over the winter except for one late crop that crows literally eat every single seed in the field. Even if 30% of the plants had survived I would encourage the grower to leave the crop as Oats can compensate unbelievably even with low plant counts. Again these crops will get a herbicide and its NPK fertilizer over the coming days as the time is here now to push them forward.

Oilseed Rape

Oilseed Rape crops are in general good with the exception of wet areas in headlands and heavy patches. It’s a crop that hates heavy ground and while there are plants in most of these areas they simply won’t grow until the ground dries out around them and the soil starts to heat up. Crops range from GAI 1 to 2 which is significantly behind last year but is still in a good place as it is very well established and ready now to move on nicely.

While weed control is good, there are some Vol Cereals that will need addressing in crops that got Pre Emergence Herbicides. This can be completed anytime over the coming month and may well be included with a fungicide once the GS allow the chemical use. All crops with a GAI of 1.5 or below have started getting nitrogen over the last few days and all crops will be topped up again in early March. It’s important to get a trained eye to do an assessment on crop density to decide your total nitrogen requirements. This can vary from 150 to 240 Kg per hectare depending on the present development of the crop. It’s planned to spray all these crops for LLS in early March as it can be a devastating disease and one needs to be proactive to it.


Over the last few weeks growers have been spraying off stubble ground and putting in place cropping plans for the coming season. Beans are high on the agenda with a lot of growers, they are now guaranteed a protein support payment for the coming season again and have proved to be a great break crop setting one for ideally for a following Winter Wheat crop. They are a crop that can be planted in very ordinary ground conditions and commonly sown with the “direct drill” system; anytime from now on, this method is very successful once your underlying fertility and PH is good.

Forage Crops

There is also an increased interest in growing forage crops for livestock farmers for the coming year. While this can be both profitable and gives good crop rotation, it’s imperative that you have an agreement with an end user as these crops are both expensive to grow and in some instances expensive to store if you fail to sell. Any oversupply of these crops tends to lead to an overall drop in the market price where ALL growers suffer and render the venture useless. This situation is of now benefit to either the grower or the end user and will only result in growers moving away from this volatile situation and stop growing the crop.