Seed dressing loss a major reason planted area so low

There is no doubt that the loss of Redigo Deter seed dressing this season has played a major role in the reduction in the area sown to winter cereals so far this season.

As farmers struggle against wet weather to get winter cereals into the ground they are no doubt looking back to finer weather that passed in September.

Delayed sowing

The National Ploughing Championships generally signals the beginning of winter barley planting in the south of the country, particularly in south Tipperary and Kilkenny. However, on good advice farmers delayed sowing.

The loss of the neonicotinoid seed dressing – Redigo Deter – which protects winter cereals crops from aphids and barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) was banned in 2018 and this is the first season which it has not been available to farmers.

Delaying sowing reduces the risk of BYDV as aphid activity reduces when the weather turns colder. Delayed sowing also reduces the risk of other diseases such as take-all and prevents plants from getting too forward early in the season.

Heavy rainfall

However, almost double the average rainfall fell in September and this resulted in less than ideal planting conditions and a severe reduction in the area sown.

Tillage farmers across the country have been attempting to sow winter cereal crops in the past few weeks, but very little seed has made its way into the ground.

Last week, AgriLand estimated that between 10% and 15% of winter cereals had been planted. It is hard to tell what impact recent activity has had on this figure. While farmers have been taking any window of opportunity available to get fieldwork done, a large number made moves into fields on Monday, October 21.

If opportunities arise, farmers will persist with their efforts to plant well into the winter, particularly with winter wheat crops. Furthermore, much of the oat crops sown in the winter are true spring varieties and are another option for late sowing.

Last year saw 154,400ha of winter cereals planted – one of the highest on record for winter crops. Winter cereals are among the most profitable crops that farmers can grow.

Impact of reduced winter cereal area

No matter what weather comes now there will be a significant reduction in the area of winter cereals planted. This has a knock-on effect on the amount of grain and straw produced. Spring cereal crops are lower yielding than spring crops and this will ultimately mean lower incomes for tillage farmers.

This may also mean less native grain and straw will be available to livestock farmers.

Another major effect of the reduction in winter planting is the spring workload.

The reduction in the area of winter crops means an automatic increase in the area of spring crops and therefore spring workload. More importantly the large area of spring crops will bring pressure points next harvest, as there will be a shorter window available to harvest crops.

Three-crop rule and greening

In April 2018, the three-crop rule was lifted following a wet winter and spring, meaning that where farmers had missed out on planting winter crops they had more flexibility in the spring time because they did not have to fulfill the requirements of the three-crop rule.

Providing a green cover is another concern tillage farmers will have. Green cover must be provided until December 1 on tillage ground. However, in other years where farmers did not get to plant, but had ploughed and were able to provide proof of an intention to plant, this had no effect on their greening requirements.

Tillage farmers were unsure of the effects of the loss of neonicotinoids on their crops. In the first year without the dressing it has prevented planting in certain areas, particularly winter barley.

All that said, if weather picks up farmers will continue to sow winter wheat and winter oats into November and as far as January.