Technical Crop Update: Winter 2022

Author: George Blackburn

2022 will live long in the memory of tillage farmers. Coming off the back of a good year in 2021, the spring was fraught with trepidation given the massive increase in fertiliser prices and energy prices in general. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine changed the game completely. With one of the world’s largest exporters effectively ceasing trading, grain prices rose to record levels. This eased concerns for many growers, and luckily we were blessed with an excellent growing season and good weather at harvest. The holy trinity of yield price and weather all came together again as in 2021, a very unusual occurrence to get two good harvests together. We will not complain however as it has breathed new life into the tillage sector and reminded us all why it is we do what we do for a living.

Farming is a risky business and feeding the world is becoming a trickier proposition for all sorts of reasons. The key message we must take from this year is despite worrying external factors, we must keep the faith. Stick to what we know and do our job as best we can. We have the capacity to produce the highest yielding, highest quality winter crops in the world and we must not lose sight of that fact.


Winter Oilseed Rape

Winter rape plantings have increased dramatically this year, even on the back of record plantings the previous year. Rape yielded very well this year and growers now see it as the go-to break crop. Factors such as grass weed issues in cereals, record high prices for rape and a very favourable planting window have all contributed to this. Winter crops were sowed in a timely fashion towards the end of August/early September and have established well in general. Most have already been treated with a herbicide for weeds and a graminicide.

The use of hybrid varieties has worked well in the later planting slots and have proven their worth. Varieties such as Ambassador and Aurelia performed very well in 2021.

The wet weather of the past month has slowed growth and crops in heavier land are suffering from waterlogging at present. There was little or no spraying done in November due to the wet conditions, so crops will need to receive an application of Kerb (propyzamide) as soon as conditions allow and temperatures drop below 12 degrees for grass weed control. Crops will also need to be treated for light leaf spot and will benefit from an application of boron. Some forward crops may need metconazole for growth regulation.


Winter Oilseed Rape


Winter Wheat

Plantings of winter wheat have held their own reasonably well again this year. Overall, acreage may be slightly down due to the difficult autumn but most dedicated wheat growers have managed to reach their planting targets. Later planned drillings after potatoes and beet have proved difficult this autumn. Most crops were drilled early and there was little to no planting done after mid-October.

Wheat delivered excellent returns in 2022 again despite the high input costs. Growers have opted with the tried and tested varieties of Graham and Costello as both have performed exceptionally well this year, with some growers recording record yields. More than the one field managed to break the 6 tonne barrier this year, showing us that it can be done.

Many growers especially on more difficult soils took advantage of favourable conditions in late September. These crops have established excellently, with almost 100% germination. Crops sowed in late September will be at risk of BYDV and will need an aphicide when conditions allow.

Aphid activity appears low due to the weather and we are still slightly in the dark as to the relative proportion of resistant aphids in the local population. This year is still relatively mild so well-timed aphicide applications are a must. Transform is still on the market this year with an autumn use label, so that is a big help with no known resistance to this product in the field yet. The advice must be to err on the side of caution and avoid spraying with a pyrethroid insecticide until at least 3 true leaves emerge on crops to minimise damage to beneficial insects that feed on aphids in the target population.

Later sown crops are struggling in wet conditions, so keep an eye out for slugs and avoid herbicide application when crops are stressed.


Winter Barley

Winter barley plantings have collapsed in the area this year, owing to a couple of factors. The removal of the three-crop rule has meant many growers who were using winter barley as their second crop are no longer obliged to do so. The second reason is the poor performance of a lot of winter barley crops last harvest. The earlier drilled crops that were sowed in poor rotation slots got hit with a double whammy of Take-All and some severe BYDV infections. This had a very negative impact on yield and quality, with some fields leaving little or no return. Chastened from this experience, farmers either moved away from winter barley altogether or opted for later planting, which did not happen with the weather.

Joyau, a six-row conventional variety with BYDV tolerance was available in limited supply last season and the few crops that were sowed performed very well. As a result, there has been an increase in plantings, especially in early slots. It will have a place going forward in rotations as the BYDV tolerance gene it carries contributes to better yields compared to conventional varieties. Plant breeding and not chemistry may be our best weapons against plant pathogens in the future, so varieties with more robust genetics for disease and pest resistance will come more to the fore.

As with wheat, similar advice applies to aphicide applications. Most crops were treated pre-emergence with a combination of Flufenacet and DFF and this was very important for grass weed control. Any crops not treated will need to get a post-emergence treatment of tower and DFF before annual meadow grass tillers to control it.


Winter Barley


Winter Oats

Winter oat plantings have reduced since last year, owing to the weather. Oats are not generally sowed until after the 10th of October, so opportunities for drilling have been limited.

Isabel and Husky are again the varieties of choice. They are both spring varieties planted in the winter, so there will be no issue sowing the seed destined for autumn drilling in the spring. Isabel is more suited to coastal areas as it has a very good rust resistance profile. Husky is a hardier variety, so will prove more suitable in a more challenging field.

Spring oats performed very well in 2022 and present a cheap reliable way of establishing a good break crop on your farm. Aim to plant oats at 12 stone (200 kg per ha) to ensure a strong plant standability.



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Managing Winter Forage Challenges

Author: Jack Scallan 

It has been well documented over the last few months that grass quantity and quality were well below target levels, which meant that stock had to be supplemented with silage etc., during the later summer months. It is therefore no surprise that silage quantity and quality are very variable this year.

Any surplus silage that was left over from last year was used up during the drought period, meaning that supply may be tight in late February or early March. A forage budget should therefore be carried out as soon as possible, which measures the length, breath and average height of the silage and maize pits and divides the result by a predetermined co-efficient to give you the number of dry matter tonnes available. With baled silage, the number of bales divided by a predetermined co-efficient will give you a similar result.

As with silage quantity, silage quality is also very variable this year. Dry matter is ranging from low 20’s to as high as 40% in one or two cases. Similarly, dry matter digestibility (DMD) is ranging from low to mid 60’s to high 70’s, while protein is ranging from 8% up to 14%. Those samples with high values tend to be the exception and overall results are lower in quality. It is therefore essential that your silage is tested, as even though there may be sufficient supply, it may not provide the required nutrients to the animal.

Our Cooney Furlong Sales Representatives are available to assist you in carrying out a forage budget, so please get in contact today.



Consider Other Winter Forages

If silage is in short supply, other forages such as maize silage, fodder beet and even straw should be considered. All these forages will combine well with silage, provided the overall diet is balanced and meets the nutrient requirements of the animal being fed. For example, 600 kg finishing steers with 1.4 kg daily liveweight gain (DLWG), would need 844 g/head/day of available protein and approximately 10 UFV/day. Whereas a milking cow producing 20lt/day at 3.3% milk protein and 3.8% milk fat, would require 1,380g/head/day of available protein and 16 UFL/day from the diet.

If ground conditions and grass quantity allows, zero grazing in early spring may also be an option to consider as it elevates shortages at that time. It is vitally important that there is enough forage available in late March and April to act as a buffer feed to the highly nutritious, low fibre early spring grass. Maize silage is a very good buffer feed for this time of year.


Contact Our Team Today 

Getting your forage budget and winter diets right this winter will be challenging, but it can be done. Contact your local Cooney Furlong Sales Representative who will assist you in meeting these challenges.

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Clubroot Prevention In Oilseed Rape

Author: Jimmy Staples 

Cover crops are a fundamental element of any sustainable arable farm and provide many benefits to both our soils and wider farming enterprises. These benefits include but are not limited to improving soil health, preventing soil erosion, combating weeds, increasing soil water infiltration and availability, mopping up nutrients, helping to break pest cycles and increasing biodiversity.

There has also been a large increase in the acreage of cover crops sown this year, which has mainly been driven by the new Nitrates rules, particularly the stubble cultivation rule. Most farmers opted to plant a cover crop while carrying out stubble cultivations. Farmers understand their importance in a sustainable farming system and should be acknowledged for embracing cover crops of their own volition.

There are many different species used in the cover crop mixes that are popular across the country but a number of these, particularly the grazing mixes, have a high inclusion of brassicas. The fodder rape and leafy turnip mix are the main ones. The continuous use of cover crop mixes with a high inclusion rate of brassica species in the same field can increase the risk of clubroot occurring.

While I haven’t personally come across a case of clubroot in oilseed rape, anecdotal evidence would suggest that it is more of an issue where fodder rape and leafy turnip cover crops are being grazed continuously with sheep or cattle over a number of years in the same field. I and many of my colleagues work with farmers who have been using cover crop mixtures for 10, 15 and even 20 years now, with oilseed rape in their rotation, and have never had a case of clubroot on their farms. With that said, prevention is always better than cure and being aware of any possible risks and making informed decisions about rotation and cover crop mixes is good agronomic practice.

What is Clubroot?

Clubroot is a soil borne fungus that can affect all cultivated and wild members of the brassica family. Clubroot can live in the soil for up to 15 years and infected plants develop characteristic galls on the roots which reduce the plant’s ability to take up water and nutrients, leading to stunted growth and reduced yields.

In the UK, yield losses of 0.3 tonne to the hectare per 10% of oilseed rape plants affected have been reported. Total crop failure is also possible in extreme cases.




Clubroot Prevention

As with any IPM strategy, early identification is crucial. There are several simple and straightforward measures that can be taken to prevent clubroot from becoming an issue on farm:

  • Maintain drainage: Clubroot will move through the soil water. Poorly drained, compacted soils are at a higher risk for clubroot infection. Keep field drains flowing and if drainage work is needed, make it a priority where oilseed rape is intended to be sown.
  • Limit the movement of infected soil: Clubroot can spread from field to field on affected soil. If clubroot is identified in a field, then a plan should be formulated to minimise soil moving from that field to a clean field via machinery, footwear, straw or crops.
  • Keep the pH right: Crops grown in lower pH soils have a greater risk of developing severe symptoms. Another reason to ensure your soil pH is optimum.
  • Control weeds and volunteers: Weeds such as charlock, shepherd’s purse and volunteer rape will all host clubroot. Ensuring control of these weeds throughout the rotation will help to reduce the risk of clubroot developing.

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Farmer taking soil sample

The Importance Of Soil Sampling

Author: Philip Kennedy 

With the increased cost of chemical fertilisers, coupled with increased spreading restrictions into 2023, now is a perfect time to get organised and take up-to-date soil samples.

  • All arable land sown from January 1, 2023, must have an up-to-date soil sample available (within 3 years). The soil sample results combined with previous yield records will allow the farmer or advisor to tailor a fertiliser plan for the crop
  • From January 2022 all livestock farmers over 170kg N/ha must take soil samples and from January 2023 all livestock farmers over 130kg N/ha must take soil samples. In the absence of soil samples an index 4 value for phosphorus will be assumed and therefore applications of Phosphorus will be for the most part not permitted.
  • Nitrate derogation farmers already have the above rules to adhere to.
  • Nutrient management plans are becoming a necessity for most commercial farms.
  • Chemical fertilisers are expensive, so it is more important than ever before to use the correct rate of the appropriate product at the optimum time and spread evenly in the right place.


Soil Sampling Procedure

  1. Leave at least 3 months between chemical fertiliser and slurry applications before taking a sample.
  2. Sample the field in a W pattern while avoiding gaps, old field boundaries, dung and urine patches or muddy areas. Soils are best sampled when they are not in a saturated state to give a more accurate pH reading.
  3. Samples from a 2 to 4 ha range are advised with similar soil types and rotations being taken together in smaller paddocks or fields.
  4. Ideally, sample to a depth of 10 cm with a mix of around 20 cores per sample mixed.
  5. Separate soil samples should be taken from areas that are of different soil types, previous cropping history, drainage, or persistent poor yields. The amount of soil required will depend on how detailed an analysis you are getting. For a full trace element analysis, more soil will be required.

When growing any crop, it is critical to ensure that the soil pH is at the correct level. The optimum soil pH is 6.3 for grassland and 6.5 for tillage crops, preferably with 60-70% calcium and 10-20% magnesium.



Agri Lime

Lime is often a forgotten fertiliser that can impact soil fertility. There is no one size that fits all, therefore we must choose the correct lime to suit our soil type.

In general, calcium lime is the only type required in Wexford due to the elevated levels of magnesium in soils. Remember; Index 4 is as far as the scale goes for magnesium. You could be index 6 or 8 if the scale were to continue, therefore do not use dolomitic lime.

Having the correct type of lime and pH for your soil will make your Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) fertiliser work far more efficiently and can release up to 80 kg/ha of organic Nitrogen (N).



Know Your Offtakes

Spring barley for an 8 tonne per ha crop (3.2t/ac) will require 30 kg/ha of P (24 units/ac) and 90 kg of K per ha (73 units/ac). For P Index 2, add 10 kg (8 units), while P Index 1 will require 20 kg per ha (16 units/ac). For K Index 2, add 15 kg per ha (12 units/ac) and for K Index 1, add 30 kg per ha (24 units/ac).

When cutting grass silage, we must remember that each tonne of grass DM per ha will remove 4 kg/ha of P (3.2 units/ac) and 25 kg/ha of K (20 units/ac). Within a grazing situation, these nutrients are recycled and replaced from the animals through animal manure.

Sulphur (S) requirements will depend on your soil type. Light soils will leach S out more than heavy soils. As a rule of thumb, match your P requirements to your S requirements. Do not spread copious quantities of S during the breeding season to prevent selenium and iodine from locking up. Smaller quantities can be spread, however if you need ASN (16N 14S), Kieserite (15Mg 20S) or Calcium Sulphate (33 CA 22S), it is recommended to wait until after the breeding season as these products contain elevated levels of sulphur.




Contact Our Team Today 

The Cooney Furlong Grain Company offer full detailed soil samples and most importantly, analysis and advice for the coming season. Samples can include calcium and magnesium totals as well as a full breakdown of S, CEC and trace elements.

Contact your local branch or area manager to organise what you need.

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