Spring barley growers must specifically spray for disease this year as soon as plant flag leaves have fully developed, according to Teagasc tillage advisor Ciaran Hickey.

“This is likely to be in a week or so’s time in the Wexford area, where late March sown crops are concerned,” he said.

“Rhyncho and Net Blotch activity is very apparent within crops at the present time. My advice to farmers is to gear up for spraying now with a hard hitting tank mix and then be ready to get this applied as soon as flag leaves have fully appeared and the awns are at the one third emergence stage.

“I know that some growers tend leave their final spring barley disease spray until the ears have fully appeared. However, this would be a mistake given the amount of disease activity at the present time. The flag leaf must be protected as it is the key driver of yield within each individual plant.”

Hickey confirmed that, in general terms, spring barley crops are looking well in the south east, despite the cool, wet growing conditions of the past few weeks.

“Plant numbers are good and plants are not overly tall,” he said.

“But the coming weeks will be crucial in determining the overall performance of this year’s spring barley crops. And growers must ensure that their management practises are commensurate with this requirement.”

Turning to winter cereal crops, Hickey said that it is a “steady as she goes” scenario where both wheat and barley are concerned.

“The winter wheat acreage is well down in the Wexford area this year. But growers are confirming to me that crops are looking well. And it’s the same story with barley. There are very few reports of winter crops lodging badly to any extent across the south east.