Ear disease and yield concerns in Irish winter wheat crops

Yields in Irish wheat crops are predicted to be down on last year, despite levels of wet weather disease septoria being less severe than normal this spring.

Ireland has the highest average wheat yield in the world, aided by high rainfall, mild winters and plenty of long, cool summer days, but the flip side is that these conditions encourage wheat’s most threatening disease.

Bayer’s business manager for North East Ireland, James Byrne, says this season has been as wet as any other, but rain has fallen at different times and resulted in less septoria pressure.

See also: New thinking on Irish wheat spray regimes

This was evident in plots untreated with fungicide at one of the company’s trial sites some 40 miles south west of Dublin at Rathangan, County Kildare, which would typically be dead by the beginning of July.

June was wet and dull, however, and showers through the flowering period heightened fusarium risk and lack of sunshine has reduced yield potential, similar to the UK.

“On the whole wheat is looking well, but it won’t be the records of last year,” says Mr Byrne.

James Byrne © Adam Clarke

James Byrne inspecting the crop © Adam Clarke

“Much will depend on weather between now and harvest. We are looking at a lot of head complex [fusarium ear blight], which will affect bushel weight, yield and increase mycotoxins, so crops will suffer,” he adds.

Winter barley, the most widely grown autumn-sown crop in Ireland, is also looking variable.

Mr Byrne says that although some crops look excellent, lack of nutrition in the spring has led loss of crop yield potential.

“Some crops dropped tillers in March and April and that is down to a lack of early nitrogen. There will be some good yields, but not to 2014-15 levels.

“Growers aren’t pessimistic, they are usually an optimistic bunch, but there is a concern about both price and yield this year,” he adds.

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