Cover crops show their value in the drought

A warm and dry April has given the spring barley crops a brilliant start and while some more rain would be appreciated, crops are performing well. The min-till establishment helped retain moisture and the crop has spread out plenty of roots foraging for nutrients and moisture. This also helped offset trace element deficiency, which becomes more apparent in a drier spring.

The fodder rape cover crops, which were incorporated prior to drilling, have also helped by releasing nitrogen slowly to the barley plant, particularly as artificial nitrogen from the top dressing was unavailable because of the lack of moisture. The sulphur, which was broadcast prior to drilling meant that nitrogen uptake by the barley was vastly improved and crops are noticeably lush.

Recent heavy showers have helped to wash in the top dressing of nitrogen, which has really shown in the crop colour. Ground temperatures are high for this time of year, which will give improved crop growth, even on the cooler days.

Weed sprays, which included wild oat spray, were completed early. While it was very warm it was still necessary to complete this application. The addition of Coyote (prothioconazole + fluoxastrobin + trifloxystrobin) and Talius (propquinazid) will keep rynchosporium and mildew under control. The large acreage of spring barley has made this early application necessary to safeguard the important T1 timing as this could be jeopardised by unfavourable weather.

The remaining applications will be based on fungicides and will not stress the crops, retaining green leaves and making the most of the planned T1 application of Siltra Pro (prothioconazole + bixafen) and Bravo (chlorothalonil), the most important fungicide application in spring barley. Yield potential of these crops is very good and with so much invested so far, my priority is to keep the yield in and the disease out.

Philip Reck manages 1,050ha of light to medium loams within 20 miles of Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Ireland. Cropping is cereals and oilseed rape, all min-till established.


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