Disease levels in winter cereals have remained low over the past number of months.

Commenting specifically on winter barley, Teagasc’s Ciaran Collins said that net blotch had been an issue back in the autumn.

“This was particularly so where barley followed barley. The key priority for barley growers right now is to get nitrogen out,” he said.

“After that, they walk their fields and carry out a comprehensive disease assessment. The biggest return on fungicides within barley programmes will come at the stem extension stage.”

Research has shown that applying fungicide to barley at Growth Stage 30 will pay a dividend, only if there are high levels of disease within crops.  

“It’s all about protecting those late tillers. And the only way to assess their potential is for growers to actively walk their crops and carry out a detailed inspection of what’s actually in the field,” Collins added.

Other cereals

Teagasc’s Shay Phelan has confirmed that the vast majority of wheat crops have wintered well.

“Plant stands of 200+ per square metre are common enough this year.  And for the vast majority of these plants there are three or even four tillers in play,” Phelan said.

Teagasc projections for winter wheat point to a crop density of 800-900 shoots per m² as being the production target that growers should be aiming for at this time of the year.

“And in the vast majority of cases, growers are attaining these objectives,” Phelan confirmed.

“The only exceptions are late crops grown after potatoes or fodder beet.”

Phelan pointed out that early nitrogen is not as critical as is the case with barley crops.

“There is no need to put nitrogen out until mid-March,” he explained.

The only exception to this rule-of-thumb would be for wheat crops within a take-all scenario.

“Conditions have been very conducive for the development of take-all within wheat crops over the past winter months,” Phelan stressed. “In these cases, growers should be looking to go with 60-70kg N/ha as soon as possible.

“This will feed the tillers and the plant. Obviously, the root structure will not be as good within those crops that are impacted by take-all.

“The applied nitrogen will help plant and tiller survival in this specific context.”

Growth regulators should be applied to wheat at around Growth Stages 30-31.

“But, again, there are no wheat crops in the country at this stage of development yet.  So there is no panic to get growth regulator out right now.”