Teagasc advisors are reporting excellent crops of winter barley and wheat around the country.

It has been estimated that the barley harvest will get underway within the next seven to 10 days in the Cork area, with the northeast and northwest following in about a fortnight’s time.

Crops of Joyau will be the first to be harvested; these would have been planted out at the tail end of last September.

Key points that have emerged on analysis of the 2020/21 growing season to date include the significant extremes of weather, in tandem with the quite low disease pressure that have impacted on crops of winter barley and winter wheat.

In addition, the potential for winter crops to produce high tonnages of straw is significant.

Winter crops sown in various locations

Teagasc advisor, Michael McCarthy is confirming that crops in the Cork were not exposed to the very hot, sunny weather that impacted on the rest of the country during the late June / early July period.

He said: “This might have slowed ripening down a small little bit. We started the year and it was atrociously wet. Then it became very cold, then it got dry and then it got very wet again. So really we got a bit of everything, from a weather-related perspective.

“Winter barley has great potential. There are bits of blind grains floating around the place. Early varieties, such as Valerie, might have eared out in May and, as a result, got caught by frost.

“There were Fusarium issues reported with Valerie closer to the coast.

“But for the most part, there is great potential in winter barley. What we lacked in terms of growth earlier in the season, we caught up later in the year as conditions improved,” McCarthy added.

According to Teagasc advisor, winter wheat crops in Cork are looking tremendously positive at the present time.

He commented: “There were some crops that are showing signs of septoria infection on the flag leaf. This is a spray timing-related issue.

“T1s were well timed. However T2 sprays went on a bit late because of the weather conditions. However, the dry weather over the past few weeks has acted to reduce the spread of septoria.

“As a result, the impact of the disease on final yields may be relatively small.”

Winter oats

McCarthy added that winter oats have good potential as well, although they account for a small area of the cereal acreage grown in Cork this year.

While septoria was an issue on wheat crops in the Cork area, yellow rust has been the disease of note in the midlands.

Michael McCarthy indicated that the fast emerging requirement for cereal growers to apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques, has highlighted the vulnerability of numerous cereal varieties.

“In Cork, it’s now obvious that we will have to call time on a number of varieties because they are so predisposed to septoria problems. And the same principle will hold in the midlands where yellow rust is such a problem,” he explained.

Donegal-based advisor, Martin McCullough, confirmed that winter crops are looking tremendously well in the northwest at the present time.

He said: “Wet weather diseases are normally the greatest challenge posed in this part of the world; but not so in 2021.

“Most crops went into the ground in fairly good conditions last autumn. They had a hard winter but improved a lot in the spring. We don’t have a huge issue with disease this year.

“Rhyncosporium, for example, was hardly an issue at all in winter barley crops. And where winter wheat is concerned, septoria has not given any great cause for concern,” he added.

“Yellow rust is a disease that we would rarely see in the north west. However, there was a rust-related problem reported with Bennington winter wheat.”

“But overall, crops are looking well; they have tremendous potential, winter oats included,” McCullough continued.

Mineral issues

Manganese and zinc-related issues have traditionally represented an important management challenge for growers in McCullough’s catchment area.

He said: “This year was no different. However, cereal growers are well used to dealing with these issues.

“The next few weeks will tell the real story; it’s all about getting the crops harvested safely.”

Co. Dublin Teagasc advisor Conor O’Callaghan is reporting that winter crops are all looking well in the northeast.

He explained: “There is great potential in crops of winter wheat. We had low levels of septoria throughout the growing season. In contrast, rust provided the greatest challenge for cereal growers this year.

“High levels of rust were noted in susceptible varieties, for example Bennington.

“Quite a lot of winter crops are still quite green. The weather that we have had over recent days may allow septoria to creep back in. We will have to see how this develops over the coming weeks.

“But, overall, wheat crops are looking well. Barley has filled relatively well. Ripening is now underway.

“There will be very little early winter barley cut in the northeast this year. But across the board, winter crops are looking well,” O’Callaghan concluded.