The extremely wet conditions over winter have meant very little crop was sown and a very small percentage received an autumn herbicide. The time has now passed to control annual meadow grass in winter barley but BLWs should be controlled as soon as conditions allow. Once spring growth commences properly, contact herbicides give more reliable control, but their efficacy is critically linked to improving soil temperatures. Where grass weeds are a concern in winter wheat Hussar may be applied up to GS32, this will also give control of some broad leaved weeds but is weak on fumitory, fat hen and chickweed. A better alternative for winter wheat which has not yet been sprayed is Othello and Bio Power. Othello contains iodosulfuron and mesosulfuron. These actives are contact only and therefore need the grass to be completely emerged and growing actively, and are very effective on larger AMG. In addition they also have activity on a range of broad leaf weeds.
Leatherjacket numbers are much higher this spring than they have been for a few years. Where fields are looking poor and yellow or bare patches have appeared it is essential to inspect for leatherjackets. Damage is already becoming apparent in some established grass swards. With this evidence of high leatherjacket populations, spring cereals are also certain to be at risk especially those following a grass ley. As crops are most susceptible to damage at the seedling stage it is most important to monitor leatherjacket numbers from emergence onwards. In newly sown cereals the need for treatment is assessed by scratching along 30cm (12“) drill lengths to a depth of 5cm and searching for leatherjackets.
As soil temperatures rise, Nitrogen will quickly be needed, and a growth regulator may need applied soon after. Potash is an essential nutrient which affects both yield and quality of grain as well as other aspects of plant vigour and health. Cereal crops need at least as much, if not more, potash than any other nutrient including nitrogen. Potash is needed in such large amounts because it regulates water and nutrient movement in the plant.
The most notable disease in crops at present is Rhynchosporium in barley and low levels of septoria in wheat. Farmers often ask me what the total cost of production is for a particular crop and whilst you can give a rough guide, it is not an exact figure. There are many hidden costs which are never taken into account and I urge all growers to take the time and work out exactly what a crop costs to grow. Certainly conacre prices seem to have risen across Northern Ireland and availability of arable land is also down on last season.
Potato growers are now planning for the season ahead and there is a real need to assess the best means of weed control. I urge all potato growers to ensure when taking conacre to ask the question has aminopyralid been applied onto the land or has it been manured or slurried with product that has been treated with aminopyralid i.e. Forefront or Pharaoh.
Land intended for spring cereals should be sprayed off with glyphosate as soon as ground conditions allow. Roundup Energy is still the best value for money in the glyphosate market with all its additional benefits over generics. Roundup Energy has faster uptake and greater consistency in a wider range of weather conditions. It is important to remember when comparing glyphosate prices the amount of active it contains, Roundup energy contains 450gm/l compared to 360gm/l in most other glyphosate.