Crop walking: ‘The good, the bad and the ugly in the north-east’

Stephen McCabe told AgriLand that he looked at “the good, the bad and the ugly” in crops last week. The agronomist works for Haggard Stores in the north-east of the country which has been severely affected by drought in the past number of weeks.

When talking to AgriLand on Thursday a mist of rain had come over the area, but not enough to keep the dust down Stephen explained.

The area is traditionally planted with about 80% winter cereals and 20% spring cereals. This year however it’s more like a 50/50 split and he commented that far too many winter wheat crops were planted in January.

Roots on a plant of spring beans. Image source: Stephen McCabe, Haggard Stores

“It’s like the good, the bad and the ugly and a lot of it comes back to what’s underneath them. Good ground, with plenty of organics seem to be just holding well.

The area we cover is from Dublin across to Westmeath and some of the ground that’s getting a little bit more rainfall in Westmeath has some beautiful looking crops.

“Back towards Dublin and anywhere people are using chicken litter or spent mushroom compost regularly those crops seem to be holding on.”

However, Stephen noted that there are other crops which are really poor, particularly crops which went into difficult seedbeds, maybe after potatoes.

It was a mixed bag for Stephen last week. He was seeing “anything and everything”.

Image source: Stephen McCabe, Haggard Stores

“This week we were going from putting late growth regulators on very strong spring barley to other crops of spring barley where the flag leaf was fully out and they still hadn’t had weed control.”

These crops were under drought stress and shot through the growth stages after receiving an aphicide and some nutrition. Stephen added that those crops will get a herbicide application and wild oat control where needed this week and when awns begin to peep they will get their first and only fungicide.

Stephen is still worried about ramularia and fusarium if wet weather does come.

I didn’t want to go too early on them. Whatever’s on them you still want to preserve.

“The really poor crops might just get straight prothioconazole and maybe some folpet. You couldn’t justify spending big money on them,” he noted.

He is trying folpet and Lentyma on some crops this season.

While nutrition was looked after earlier in the season Stephen applies magnesium with the final sprays of most cereal crops in a foliar spray or using salts to help with grain fill.

Winter wheat

Stephen noted that there are some very nice looking crops of winter wheat in his area.

“A good chunk of land was sown the week of the ploughing and it looks very well, but then there are also poor crops of wheat sown in January on heavy ground and those crops are heading out now and are only 6-7in high.”

“Winter wheat T3s will be at the end of next week. A huge amount of crops are flowering away. We’re lucky that they’re flowering in this weather.”

Stephen is trying to hold out on T3s until the end of the week to give protection into July.

Image source: Stephen McCabe, Haggard Stores

Winter barley

Stephen explained that winter barley crops are now beginning to die off in places hit badly with the drought like on the tops of hills.

“We didn’t really have a huge amount of very good winter barley crops. They struggled. The ground was tight around them and they didn’t get to tiller the way you’d like.”

Spring wheat

Spring wheat was a preferred option for many farmers in the area where seed was available. The late sown crops are struggling.

Stephen added that the flag leaf is fully out on some of these crops and they’re not much higher than a pen.

“There was a nice bit of rust around here. A lot of spring wheat is in a two-spray programme. They had their first spray. We’ll skip the flag leaf and we’ll wait until the head comes out and give them a good Prosaro/strob mix.”

Triticale for the combine

This year some of Stephen’s customers decided to plant Triticale to bring to harvest. It was planted before St. Patrick’s Day.

“It looks phenomonally well compared to some of the spring wheats,” he commented.

He added that it hasn’t thinned out like spring wheat is doing and an application of Corbel early in the season kept mildew out. It has also been carefully watched for growth regulator applications.

We’ll see how it goes in the combine. This is the first time it’s going forward for harvest so if you can get a buyer and it does reasonably well it’s definitely an option against spring wheat.

Potato crops the main business

The season is now quietening down on the cereals front and for the next few weeks Stephen will be busy with potato crops. Crops recovered from frost in May having lost colour for a few days.

“We’re into the thick of spuds now. They’re all more or less through now. Anything from systemics back to first blight sprays is where we are. At the moment we’re tidying up weed control. With the dry weather the residuals let a few weeds through.”

Stephen noted that it’s important to be careful as some varieties are more sensitive than others.

“It’s working well so far. We were trying to put foliar urea and seaweed mixes onto them to keep crop stress free and then follow that up with a herbicide and it seems to be working.”

The Urea Stephen is using is Efficient N28 from Goliath Urea as he says it avoids scorching on crops.

Potato nutrition

“With potatoes we’ll start doing tissue analysis. It works. It shows up some problems before they arise,” Stephen commented.

“There would be a good bit of liquid potash used and magnesium and things like that but with zinc and copper deficiencies being known in our area we’ve found that the tissue analysis is helping to get ahead of the problem.”

Spring beans

Spring bean crops are now flowering, but the dry weather is also causing problems.

“There are a few crops of beans that are pale. It’s probably just root development in the drought. The crops are struggling to get hold of nitrogen from the bacteria.”

They’re being sprayed this week. They’ll get phosphite, magnesium and a bit of molybdenum.

“The phosphite is probably enough for downy mildew. More than likely we’ll come back later on with Signum. There’s no sign of chocolate spot coming in so we’ll just keep an eye on them.”

Image source: Stephen McCabe, Haggard Stores

Winter and spring oats

Winter oats have now been treated for the season and spring oats are varying between the stages of having the flag leaf out to ears peeping.

Those crops received Talius early in the season to keep out mildew and it worked well. They will receive Elatus Era next week.

“They’re absolutely spotless,” Stephen added.