Teagasc has hosted a number of farm walks over recent weeks, at which establishment rates of over 85% have been the norm for spring cereals.

This tremendous level of performance has been attributed to the excellent ground conditions at time of drilling and the very conducive weather conditions that have followed.

Cork-based Teagasc tillage specialist Ciaran Collins commented:

“Seed beds were in excellent conditions through the planting season. This also allowed for the early planting of most crops,” Collins continued.

“The rain that followed in the south of the country a few days ago has really helped to boost new crop growth rates.”

The start of tillering is the ideal time for weed control in spring cereals. Collins specifically highlighted the growing challenge of chickweed in this context.

“We have known for a while that this particular weed is showing resistance to sulfonylureas.

“Growers have found that if weed control is delayed at all, it becomes increasingly difficult to get on top of the problem.

“Farmers who know that they have a problem with chickweed must get on top of it early with a product specifically developed to tackle this problem.

“On that basis, herbicides that contain fluroxypyr should be included in the tank mix. These include Starane and Hurler,” he added.

“Last year, many growers didn’t get into fields on time. As a consequence they found themselves tackling large infestations of chickweed, which were extremely difficult to control.”

Monitoring spring cereals

Location is the key driver of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) creating problems in spring cereal crops. Teagasc now has a suction tower network up and running.

This is allowing the accurate monitoring of aphid numbers in all the main cereal-growing areas.

According to Collins, Teagasc should soon be able to provide a comprehensive system support service for farmers, where BYDV control is concerned.

“We did have a mild autumn and winter. So we did see a little bit of virus in winter barley, which carried over into the spring,” he said.

“In terms of what the suction towers are telling us, there has been very little aphid activity in Carlow. However, the suction tower in Cork has monitored activity.

“There were aphids captured at that suction tower in early January, later on in February and again around March 25.”

From an integrated pest management control perspective, Collins is advising farmers to walk fields now and to look for evidence of aphid activity.

As a general rule of thumb, he is indicating that early spring-sown crops, within which no sign of aphid activity is evident, may not require an insecticide.

However, the risk of BYDV becoming a problem increases the further south one travels.