Winter barley crops are starting to grow-on in many parts of the country and this is reflected in the yellow pallor that is now characterising crops.

Tillage specialist Ciaran Collins explained: “Establishment has been quite good this year. Both plant and tiller counts are high.

“This is the foundation of yield in winter barley. What we are aiming to do now is preserve those tillers.

“This is where the first nitrogen application will come in,” he said.

According to Collins, work carried out by Teagasc would show that up to Growth Stage 30, there will be no detrimental impact on yield.

“If nitrogen is delayed beyond that point, growers will start to run in to trouble. So from now on is the timing for nitrogen application on barley crops,” he explained.

Advanced winter crops

Normally, St Patrick’s Day would be regarded as the time of year by which most winter barley crops would have reached Growth Stage 30.

However, Teagasc advisors are confirming that many barley crops are significantly advanced this year.   

This has been brought about by a combination of earlier sowing dates and the very mild winter conditions.

Collins pointed out that advanced barley crops can stay a little bit longer at Growth Stage 30.

“This is particularly so if the weather stays cool,” he said.

Collins is also of the view that barley crops could be predisposed to lodging this year.

“High plant counts and lodging can go hand-in-hand,” he said.

“But other factors should be taken into account also. These include the lodging rating of the variety that is being grown.

“And then, obviously, the total level of nitrogen that is being applied also comes into play.”

Growth regulators can be applied as part of a split application programme at Growth Stages 30 and 37.

“I would be cautious at applying growth regulators just yet,” Ciaran Collins commented.

“The first priority would be to get nitrogen out, get good active growth within the crop and then apply the growth regulator.

“Growth regulators won’t work if conditions are poor. If the timing of application is wrong, regulators can actually harm the crop, from a final yield perspective.”


Where first nitrogen applications are concerned, Collins recommends a dressing of 50kg/ha.

“The compound used will dictate this in a lot of cases. Demand for nitrogen is still quite low in crops at this stage of the year. So adding more than is required now can result in significant crop input losses,” he said.

“This is wasteful enough in any normal year. But particularly so, given the current cost of all fertilisers.”