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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Combine harvester harvesting winter barley

Technical Crop Update: Summer 2022

The growing season of 2021/2022 will live long in the memory of cereal growers. Coming off the back of the best harvest in a generation in 2021 where we had the magic mix of yield, price and weather, much needed faith was restored into our sector. All stakeholders were filled with a renewed sense of optimism and reassurance as to why it is we do what we do for a living and ultimately a way of life.

2022 started with a sense of trepidation as input prices began to soar with fertiliser increasing up to 300% on the back of record natural gas prices, a key input in Nitrogen fertiliser manufacturing. However much has happened over the course of the season. The outbreak of war in Ukraine has had a seismic effect on the global grain market, with one of the world’s largest producers and exporters effectively unable to trade. This massive hole in the global supply chain coupled with the subsequent sanctions on Russia has seen global grain markets soar to record levels. Despite the high input prices, we arrive on the cusp of the harvest in a situation where there has never been a greater demand for our grain. This can only be positive for the sector. We can only control what goes on inside our own farm gate and as a result, all we can do is try and produce as high yielding and high-quality crops as possible. Irish growers are some of the best in the world and as long as the weather plays ball with us, hopes are high for another good harvest off the back of last year.


Crop Update

On a local and national level, disease pressure, grass and resistant weed issues along with the growing threat of BYDV have created many challenges for our 2022 crops. It is always important to reflect on the current condition of crops and assess what worked and what didn’t work in 2022.


Winter Barley 

Winter barley will be the first crop to go under the knife and will probably come in a week or so earlier than normal. It has been a challenging season for winter barley crops. The mild winter of 2021 has increased the risk of BYDV infection in crops, along with increased pressure from earlier sowing slots. Crops that were sprayed up to 3 times with insecticide are still showing signs of viral infection, clearly displaying the reduced efficacy of our insecticide tool box. Later sowing dates, plant breeding through resistant varieties, encouragement of beneficial insects in the population and new interesting work being done on manipulation of nitrate levels in the leaf, will all prove important mitigation tools in future seasons.

Some crops are also compromised by rotation slot, with those sowed after heavy winter wheat crops in 2021 exhibiting some symptoms of Take-All. Winter barley after break crops looks significantly better.

Crops also suffered from the cold spring from late March into early April. This saw a lot of tiller death in winter barley as crops struggled for nutrients and had poor nitrogen uptake. Crops looked thin for a long time but as the weather improved, crops have bulked up a lot. They may not be as barn busting as last year, however they will still return decent yields and considering current grain prices, they will leave a decent margin.

The main varieties to look for in 2023:

  • Joyau(BYDV Tolerant).
  • KWS Tardis.
  • Valerie.
  • Belfry.

Winter Barley


Winter Oilseed Rape

Winter rape could be the crop of 2021. In contrast to winter barley, the weather has suited rape all the way along and crops look to have fantastic potential. The prolonged flowering period of upwards of 6 weeks have seen excellent pod set on rape crops with good seed fill in the pods themselves.

The main commercial variety is Ambassador and looks excellent. It is a hybrid variety suitable for later sowing, has Turnip Yellow virus resistance and has an anti-pod shatter gene. The market for rape is strong at the moment and even though it has slipped slightly from record levels a few weeks ago, it will easily surpass any previous harvest prices. It looks like an excellent break crop option for 2023 with the current market prices available and the continued conflict in Ukraine a key world producer of vegetable oils helping to underpin prices.

Rape also presents a good opportunity to get on top of difficult grass weeds such as wild oats, sterile brome and ryegrass. There is no known resistance to propyzamaide and anyone with grass weed issues should consider rape as a break crop in their rotation. Now is a good time for desiccation and crops should be sprayed off when 2/3 of the seeds in the pods on the main raceme have turned from green to brown.

Oilseed rape


Winter Wheat 

Winter wheat crops look to have great potential for the coming harvest. The two main varieties for 2022 are mainly Graham with some Costello in the mix too.

The loss of Chlorothalonil was seen as a possible death knell for winter wheat production in Ireland, however that doesn’t seem to be the case as of yet. The addition of two new chemicals, Revystar and Innotrek have seen Septoria control brought to a new level. So much so, that many crops have three to four clean leaves still at this stage of the growing season.

First wheats again are a must with the odd second wheat showing signs of Take-All in places. BYDV is evident in some crops but does not look to be significant. As always, the later sown mid-October crops look to have the greatest potential.

Winter wheat update


Spring Barley 

Spring barley, our flagship crop, looks to have great potential again this year. Crops sown early have good plant stands, have went through a mainly dry flowering period and look to be filling well. The main variety sown is Planet, with some Gangway, Geraldine and a new variety Mermaid in the mix. Cooney Furlong will again be assembling Planet and Gangway for food grade purposes. Crops were sowed in great conditions at the end of March and seemed to get just the right amount of moisture when it was needed most. As a result, crops are thick and very bulky with growth regulators having to be employed on most crops at the onset of stem extension. The harvest will probably be a week earlier than normal as crops were sowed early and are well developed.

Weed control seems to be better than last year with more favourable temperatures at spraying timings this year. The resistant wild oat issue remains but growers with problems are taking action to mitigate the problem such as switching to pre emergence herbicides and a more varied crop rotation.

Spring barley field


Winter and Spring Oats 

The two main varieties, Husky and Isabel dominate the landscape again with Husky probably proving the tougher variety for winter sowing. As both are spring varieties sown in the winter, hardiness is a key attribute required. Crops look good in general with good panicle size and grain numbers per panicle with a few blind grains. The addition of boron zinc and manganese to the crop nutrition programme seem to have enhanced grain quality and yield in the last few years.

Rust and mildew are the two key diseases affecting oats and both have surfaced this year, especially mildew in spring oat crops. The loss of Corbel and Opus from the chemical toolbox will make control of rust and mildew a key concern in the coming seasons. Crop nutrition will play a key role in helping to mitigate disease threat in future seasons.

Field of winter oats


Spring Beans and Spring Wheat 

Spring beans look to have great potential this year as they have received rainfall at regular intervals. Beans need plenty of moisture to reach their yield potential and have grown into very heavy crops with good pod set and hopefully good pod fill. The main commercial variety is Lynx.

Disease control has been more challenging this year with the loss of chlorothalonil for chocolate spot and Ridomil Gold for downy mildew. Again, the rotation is key to beans with crops doing best when sowed no more than one in six in the rotation.

Spring wheat has come back into vogue slightly this year with the tillage incentive scheme seeing some livestock farmers plough up leys in order to plant a cereal crop. The two main varieties are Talisker and Duncan and crops look to have decent potential.



The main crops look to have great potential this year and we look forward to a successful harvest again. Despite record input prices, grain prices have risen to record levels and the prospect of near-record crop margins is a high possibility.

From all the Cooney Furlong Grain team, we would like to thank our customers for the continued support throughout the year and we wish you all a successful and safe harvest.


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Tractor spraying weeds in grass field

Controlling Weeds In Grassland

Author: Philip Kennedy 


After second cut silage presents an ideal opportunity to control docks and chickweed in grassland. Weeds are soft and growthy after recent fertiliser applications and rain. An actively growing weed takes in chemicals a lot more efficiently, which will help achieve great weed control. Outlined below are various solutions to control these weeds.


Controlling Weeds 

Nettles, Thistles, Ragwort, Dandelions, Daisies and Rushes are some of the most problematic weeds to watch out for. When controlling these weeds it is important to spray in good growing conditions with a minimum of 8 degrees average temperature or more if possible. The growing stage of the weed is also important i.e. if the weed is flowering, it is more difficult to control so it needs to be sprayed before this point. When spraying docks, the leaves should be lush green and not much more than 3 to 4 centimeters wide. Docks also thrive when the soil is low in calcium and high in magnesium so this might be worth investigating if you have a particularly bad infestation.

The best time to control docks is in a new reseed with a product such as CLOVERMAX (2,4D + MCPA). It should be applied around 4-6 weeks post sowing at a rate of 7l per ha with at least 200l per ha water volume. When applying a herbicide on grass, it helps to apply some fertiliser close to spraying as this will decrease any negative effect on grass growth and encourage weeds to grow and take chemistry into the plant more effectively, thereby encouraging a better kill out.



Weed Control Solutions 

  • Eagle is an effective dock control solution if you also want to try and save clover. Most dock sprays will kill clover.
  • Pasture pack represents a new concept in grass weed control. The tank mix option for Thrust (2,4D + Dicamba) and Tandus (Fluroxypyr) allows farmers to reap the benefits of three different active ingredients, providing a cost-effective solution to Docks, Nettles, Dandelions, Daisies and Chickweed.
  • D50 (2,4D) provides excellent control on Ragwort which is poisonous to animals. This must be applied at the rosette stage in March or April and animals must be kept off the field until the weed has withered away.
  • Agritox (MCPA) is a good option for the control of Charlock, Thistle, Fat hen, Buttercup and Rushes. If you are using it for the control of Rushes, it is recommended to use a sticker such as Kantor due to the waxy nature of the rush. For best control, Rushes should be sprayed when young and ideally growing.
  • Minstrel (Fluroxypyr) is good on both docks and chickweed.

Some products can be used in conjunction with each other and our Cooney Furlong Farm Representatives are available to discuss your specific weed control options.


The full Corteva range is also available in the Cooney Furlong Grain Branches as follows.

Chart matching weeds to herbicide solutions



For a full list of details on each herbicide, click here.


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Claas combine harvester working

Grass weed control before and during harvest

Author: Jimmy Staples 


Unfortunately, there is no room for a holiday when it comes to controlling grass weeds as one slip-up can lead to large quantities of seed being introduced back into the seed bank and undoing a lot of the good work that has already been done during the growing season. There are a number of actions that can be taken now and during the harvest that can complement actions already taken and enhance the level of control achieved.


Grass Weeds

With the plant protection season drawing to a close, now is a great time to get back into crops and identify any potential issues. At this time of the year, grass weeds will have emerged above the crop canopy and when they have headed out, it is the easiest time to identify them. The main grass weeds that we need to be concerned about are as follows:



Diagram of grass weeds



Grass Weed Control: Before Harvest 

All of these grass weeds can multiply rapidly so a zero-tolerance approach should be taken especially where herbicide resistance has been identified. At this stage in the year, preventing seed return should be a priority. Walking your crops after the final sprays have been applied is a good habit to get into as it allows you to identify any troublesome patches within fields that may not have been controlled by herbicides.

It’s worthwhile taking samples from these weeds and sending them off to the Teagasc Enable Conservation Tillage Programme for resistance testing. We have confirmed resistance in populations of wild oats and ryegrass here in Wexford so it pays to be vigilant.

Where crops are clean and herbicides have done their job, pay attention to areas where the sprayer may have missed such as the ins and outs on headlands, field gaps/gates and areas on the headland where turning. These areas can provide useful information about what weeds are in the field and allow you to plan ahead if something new or unusual is found.

Practical options for preventing seed return will focus on rogueing which is your most cost-effective tool where populations are low. Where larger patches are identified, crop destruction or whole cropping may have to be considered depending on the current crop and your planned rotation.


Grass Weed Control: During Harvest 

Avoid harvesting areas where a significant population of grass weeds is present as you risk spreading weed seeds further across the field and potentially through your farm or where harvesting and baling are done on hire to another farm.

During harvest, machine hygiene has become increasingly important to help stop the spread of grass weeds and particularly where resistant weeds have been identified. Combines and balers are two of the biggest culprits when it comes to the spread of grass weeds, therefore it is important to clean down these machines when moving from field to field or farm to farm where grass weed issues have been identified.

Where possible, combines and balers should be blown down before moving to a new field or farm. Many newer combines will have a cleaning programme which can simplify the task and reduce the time involved. Having a compressor or a leaf blower at hand will greatly speed up the job. Nobody can be expected to fully clean down a combine or baler in the field but spending half an hour cleaning down a machine could prevent years of heartache and frustration.

Putting a strategy in place to help control and stop the spread of grass weeds can be relatively straightforward, it’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down and make a plan.

If any customers have an issue with grass weed, please contact Jimmy Staples directly.


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Grazing 2022: Maintaining milk production alongside grass issues

Author: Jack Scallan 


The last twelve months have seen many unprecedented changes in agriculture, both globally and domestically. The dairy industry did not escape these changes. There has been a major reduction in milk production globally due to mainly grain/feed and fertiliser prices which have increased exponentially over the last 18 months, while global demand has been maintained. This has led to the milk price increasing from about 30c/l base price to an unprecedented base price of about 52c/l over the same period.


Grass Quality and Quantity 

In Ireland, milk production is mainly based on grass, which is a very variable product both in quantity and quality. This has been seen throughout the spring and early summer where growth rates were very good in January and February but were poor in late March and April to improve again in mid-May. This may well be the pattern for the rest of the year depending on rainfall.

Also, during this time, grass quality was very variable and this changed from week to week. Grass protein over the grazing period has been poor in general. Normally it should be around 22 to 28%, however it hardly reached 18-19% throughout the spring. Protein in the diet will drive milk yield but grass is the main source of protein in the diet of a spring calving herd. If dietary protein is low, then milk yield will be reduced and peak milk is not reached. An indication of low dietary protein is milk urea, which fluctuated quite a lot this spring/summer.




Energy and Fibre

Energy and fibre have been variable throughout the grazing period also. Fibre (NDF), though low at times, has been steadily increasing to normal levels lately, which means that rumen function will become more normalised. Both fibre and energy are a major influence on milk fat yield and the general good health of the animal, while energy is a major contributor to milk protein yield. Energy has also varied quite a bit over the grazing period but not as much as protein. Like protein, grass is the main contributor to dietary energy. Indications of low dietary energy are low milk protein and fat yields and poor fertility (though other factors can also influence fertility). Grass dry matter was in general low this spring/summer (approximately 15-16%) and this had a substantial effect on intake which limited the amount of protein and energy that the cow could get from grass.



With grass being so variable in quality and quantity, it will not meet the modern high yielding cow’s dietary requirements. Therefore, it may be necessary to introduce baled silage, maize or even pit silage to enhance dry matter intake. It is essential to supplement the cows with a good quality concentrate/ration (a minimum of 0.96 ufl and 100 grm/kg PDI made from good quality ingredients). A cow giving 26 lt/day would normally need about 3 kg of dairy nuts per day at grass. As grass is so variable, it is probably advisable to feed her 4-5kg /day to ensure she gets her daily dietary requirements. This will incur an extra cost, which will be offset by more consistent milk yield and quality, a stronger immune system (less infections, e.g., mastitis), and less fertility issues.

Contact your Cooney Furlong Farm Representative or call to any of our branches if you have queries about any issues raised in this article.


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Winter crop technical update

Author: George Blackburn 


As we move into the second half of February and look towards the beginning of March, our attention must first focus on the winter crops in the ground from autumn 2021. Key management decisions regarding fertiliser and growth regulation in the early stages of spring can have a major bearing on a crops final yield potential especially winter barley.

There is a slight increase in the overall acreage of winter cereals as sowing conditions were good in the early part of autumn 2021, with many growers opting to drill a little earlier to get crops established. The sense of optimism amongst growers following last year’s exceptional harvest was a welcome boost to the sector and as a result, growers were eager to get crops planted. The earlier drilled crops have better establishment without question and did receive an autumn aphicide. Those that took the gamble of sowing earlier into better conditions seem to have been rewarded so far but time will tell on this. The winter has been a lot milder than normal so many early drilled crops are quite advanced in terms of growth stages. Growth regulation and delaying applications of fertiliser on these earlier crops will be wise this spring. The huge increase in fertiliser prices has tempered some of last year’s optimism, however, grain prices look very strong for the coming harvest and many growers have availed of attractive forward prices. When planning fertiliser strategies for the coming season regardless of price, the focus must be on growing a crop to its full potential. This has always proven to be the most profitable strategy. Soil sampling and correct liming are key steps required to produce optimum yielding crops for the coming season.


Winter Barley

Winter barley crops have established well, with good plant count levels. Most were sown in ideal sowing conditions and have come through a very dry winter. Some of the crops are a little bit forward, with some live disease in them and will require robust growth regulation programmes. Any crops that have not received any Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) will need an application before the end of February as soon as conditions allow. Crops that received no autumn P and K will start to show up deficiencies especially for P when temperatures pick up and growth kicks in.
Check your soil samples and tailor NPK compounds accordingly. As a rule of thumb, winter barley crops need 30-35 units of P and 100 units of K. This will vary slightly between 2 row and 6 row varieties, with slightly higher potash requirements for the 6 rows. Aim to have 75% of Nitrogen (N) out on winter barley by March 20th. Disease levels are generally low, growth regulation and tillering will be the main focus of early chemical applications. Do not be tempted to drop back on P and K applications too much as we must remember that offtakes from fields were very high last harvest.


Winter Wheat

Winter wheat crops are generally good but there is some variation out in the fields. Crops sowed earlier that are well established are in good heart, with excellent plant stands. Crops sown later in difficult seedbeds, especially potatoes and fodder beet have suffered a bit with crow and slug damage. Chopped bean straw has also proven to be a suitable host for slugs and a few winter wheat crops after beans have needed to be treated with slug pellets. It is becoming increasingly more important to run a shallow disc over chopped bean or rape straw and is an important part of the Straw Incorporation Measure for slug control. Our methods of chemical control are no longer as potent as they used to be. Many crops after beans have a lot of volunteers coming through but these will be easily dealt with in the spring and are actually serving a useful drainage purpose at the moment by soaking up moisture from the soil.

While crops are generally good and winter wheat has an amazing ability to compensate for sub-optimal plant stands at harvest, I would be reluctant to tear up any crops bar they are very poor. Aim to have a balance of P and K out on wheat by mid-March. Apply according to soil sample requirements. Aim to have the first main split of nitrogen on by the first week of April and final split on the first week of May. It is important to remember that wheat should not have too big a canopy too early in the crop, as this presents problems for growth regulation and disease control, especially Septoria Tritici.


Winter wheat field

Winter Oats

Winter oat crops have established well in general and there is a nice amount of winter oats in the ground. The two varieties sown are Isabel and Husky, both spring varieties sowed in the autumn. Most crops are in good condition but some in the more coastal and milder areas are a touch forward. These crops will need careful attention in terms of growth regulation and rust control especially in south Wexford and other coastal areas. Crops will need to get their NPK requirements by the middle of March with a blend such as 10-5-25 plus S for winter oats at a rate of 4 bags/acre.


Winter oat field


Winter Oilseed Rape

The acreage of oilseed rape (OSR) has seen a drastic increase this year, owing to record prices available for the crop. Crops are in excellent condition and are more forward than ever after the mild winter. The Green Area Index (GAI) of each crop is worth measuring this year and there are a few useful apps available to measure this. Some crops have up to 3.5 GAI readings and are exceptionally forward. The key message for these crops would be to delay N applications for as long as possible and also to reduce overall N applied. Most crops are in the range of 2-2.5 GAI which is excellent coming out of the winter and there is an opportunity to reduce N applications by 50-60 units on these crops.

Pigeon damage doesn’t seem to be much of an issue at all this year. All crops received some P at planting and this has made a big difference to rooting and overall establishment. All crops have been treated with a fungicide for light leaf spot in the autumn and with Kerb (propyzamide) for grass weed control. Most crops received an autumn growth regulator which seems to have worked very well to even out crops for nice canopy management in the spring. As a result, crops have nice clean canopies for the onset of spring. Aim to get potash out on OSR by mid-March, 100-110 units is sufficient. Rape has a high requirement for Sulphur (S) so the first main split of N should include ASN (26% N + 14% S), with further applications of Sulcan. Aim to apply the last 40-50 units of N on rape at the latest possible time that the fertiliser spreader can physically travel through the crop.

Winter oilseed rape


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Herbicide resistance in tillage farming

Author: Jimmy Staples


Over the last decade, it has become increasingly difficult to manage some of the pests that we were previously able to control comfortably with plant protection products.

This can be attributed to:

  • The loss of key active ingredients due to de-registration
  • A lack of new active ingredients coming onto the market
  • The development of resistance to the current active ingredients on the market


Loss of active ingredients

The loss of active ingredients is a worrying trend and according to the DAFM website, there were 17 active ingredients whose registration was revoked between December 31st 2018 and August 23rd 2020. The last date for use of many of these active ingredients has now passed with the loss of chlorothalonil (Bravo) and the neonicotinoid family of insecticides creating big challenges.


Resistance in the tillage field

This loss of key active ingredients is compounded further by the development of herbicide resistance. BYDV control can be challenging due to pyrethroid resistance within some species of aphids. Diseases like Septoria are constantly putting available chemistry to the test and resistance to herbicides is becoming increasingly common throughout the country.

We have both broad-leaved and grass weed resistance confirmed here in Ireland and it is suggested that this is under-reported. Here in Wexford, I have come across resistant populations of chickweed, corn marigold and wild oats and I am currently awaiting results from Teagasc in relation to populations of blackgrass and Italian ryegrass which may also be resistant.


Reported weed resistance to one or more herbicide - table


Cultural control: Integrated Pest Management 

The Enable Conservation Project has confirmed herbicide resistance in Italian ryegrass, blackgrass and wild oats. Blackgrass and Italian ryegrass populations have been found to be resistant to ALS herbicides (Alister Flex, Pacifica Plus, Broadway Star, Monolith), ACCase herbicides (Axial Pro, Falcon, Stratos Ultra) and in some instances, a combination of both. Where both ALS and ACCase resistance are present, it severely limits your crop herbicide options.

In these cases, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies need to be to the fore and there are many options available. These include but are not limited to:


  • Use of rotations
  • Cover crops
  • Companion cropping
  • Arable grass margins
  • Using competitive cultivars
  • Pushing back sowing dates
  • Increasing seeding rates
  • Stale seedbeds
  • Cultivation type and depth
  • Establishment system
  • Rogueing
  • Crop destruction
  • Remote sensing
  • Monitoring and evaluation

A successful IPM strategy will consist of a number of these measures chosen specifically to meet the challenges of an individual’s farm and should be used along with the targeted application of herbicides. These should be implemented in a structured fashion over the course of the whole rotation. Achieving effective control of many of these weeds will not be possible in one, two or even three years.


Herbicide resistance management strategy 

Prevention of course is better than a cure and there is simple, yet effective measures that we can take to try and ensure that herbicide resistance does not evolve on farm. Most of these measures will revolve around the use of and application of herbicides.

When spraying, consider the following as part of a herbicide resistance management strategy:

  1. Has the target weed(s) been identified correctly?
  2. What is the target growth stage and when is the weed going to be at this stage?
  3. What volume of water do I need to use to ensure sufficient coverage?
  4. Do I have issues with the pH in the water I am using?
  5. What rate of herbicide do I need to achieve control of the weed(s) at the target growth stage?
  6. Try to keep tank mixes as simple as possible, so as not to stress the crop and ensure that all components of the mix work effectively. 


Some things are outside of our control. The last two springs have been incredibly challenging with weather conditions either too wet or too cold and the variations in day and night-time temperatures meant spraying days were very limited. I came across a number of cases of wild oats and sterile brome which were not controlled by herbicides in both 2020 and 2021. Samples were sent for resistance testing and results have shown that they were not resistant to the products used. A number of factors contributed to the lack of control, namely, big variations in day and night-time temperatures, shading from the crop and the use of lower rates of herbicide than was required.

It is important to understand the weeds on your farm as this will help you to decide on management strategies. For instance, it can take from five to ten years for resistance to develop in a population of wild oats as opposed to a population of blackgrass where resistance can develop in just three generations.

If you do suspect herbicide resistance on your farm, please get in contact with your advisor as the earlier the problem is diagnosed and action is taken, the greater the chance of a positive outcome.


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