Not worth trimming sprays
Spray plans are constantly
under review and costs
rising as a result of bad
weather on our barometer
farms. But in Northern
Ireland the spring has been
relatively kind, as
Andrew Blake discovers
GOOD results from strobilurin fungicide last year, grain prices higher than in England and heavy septoria and rhynchosporium pressures mean Michael Kane is reluctant to trim inputs too hard this season. And for a change the weather at Ballyhenry House Farm, Myroe, Limavady, has been quite kind compared with other parts of the UK, allowing him to keep field operations on schedule.
Already his strategy is paying off with autumn Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin) insecticide leaving Regina, Manitou and Jewel winter barleys for seed mostly free of BYDV. Elsewhere in the region symptoms are widespread, says DANI crops development adviser Emerson McDowell. "Levels are the worst I have seen in seven years."
Grain prices in the province are based on English levels, but transport savings mean feed compounders are prepared to pay a £10-15/t premium for local production, says Mr Kane. He hopes a similar reward may apply to 10ha (25 acres) of Abbot for bread-making – his first venture into higher quality types since 1995.
The higher potential return cannot be ignored when determining inputs, he maintains. "Our fungicide rates may seem high. But we know we get high septoria eight years in 10." That said, disease control is very much a matter of adjusting to current conditions. "We have no set plans."
Frost leaf tipping made him wary of rushing in too soon with sprays this season, but bar septoria, crops are reasonably clean. His self-propelled Sands 20m (66ft) boom sprayer working at 170 litres/ha volume gives plenty of scope to catch up when opportunities arise.
DuPont diagnostic tests on Apr 10 confirming, as last year, that eyespot was low in both first and continuous wheats allowed savings on T1 sprays which, according to crop, went on anything from two to five weeks ago. They consisted of 0.25 litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole) + 0.5 litres/ha of Pointer (flutriafol) and 1 litre/ha of Bravo (chlorothalonil) along with 1 litre/ha of chlormequat growth regulator.
Early flag leaf treatments are beginning to occupy his mind. "On the wheats we will probably use a quarter rate of Opus with 0.6-0.8 litres/ha of Amistar according to yield potential. On some of our poorer ground we might consider just straight Opus." A second growth regulator is obligatory, he suggests. "It is a matter of course with high yielding wheats at T2. We cant risk leaving it out."
Amistar (azoxystrobin), for which he perceives no supply problems, is also likely to figure as an ear wash after very good results last year, and in the second winter barley fungicide spray.
A Punch C/Orka (carbendazim + flusilazole/fenpropimorph + quinoxyfen) mix in early April kept the barley clean until recently. "I expect much of mildew was washed away," he comments. "But there is new rhynchosporium about so we are thinking about getting back on as soon as the flag leaf is through."
Two options for comparison are likely to be tried, a two-thirds dose of Landmark (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole) alone and an Amistar/Punch mix at 0.6/0.5 litres/ha. "We havent any experience of Landmark. On the Jewel we will probably reduce the rates slightly because it is more disease resistant."
Oilseed rape, all winter hybrids Synergy and fully restored Pronto, took some flower damage in the frosts but Mr Kane is not too concerned. "We had a cold spell last year and the Synergy still gave over 2t/acre which was 15% better than our Apex."
Hybrid winter oilseed rape seems to have come through recent frosts well at Myroe, DANI crops development adviser Emerson McDowell (centre) discovers on a visit to the Kane brothers Michael (left) and Boyd.
• Midlands. Despite being unable to plant a potato for four weeks, Steven McKendrick has stuck to his spraying programme well. "We are just half a day behind, but then all the wheats will have had a second fungicide at GS32." But heavy disease pressure is forcing a re-think on the most forward crops. Main change is likely to bring forward the next Opus/Bravo (epoxiconazole/chlorothalonil) mix to GS37, trimming the rates to 0.5 litres/ha instead of the 0.75 litres planned for GS39. That leaves cash in hand for 0.3 litres/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole) at ear emergence.
• North. Keith Snowball admits shifting his earlier cautious attitude on fungicide spending given high levels of septoria in wheat and simmering rhynchosporium and net blotch in barley. "We had planned to spend no more than £15/acre on the wheats. But now it looks as though it may be £20. A fiver is not a lot extra to spend to keep on top of septoria." For now the wheat programme, a GS32 Alto Elite (chlorothalonil + cyproconazole) clean up followed by Amistar, remains on schedule.
• East. Bad weather kept David Pettitts sprayer off the land for a fortnight. "We have caught up now, but we have had to up the fungicide rates to compensate." The 0.1-0.2 litres/ha doses of Opus on the wheat were lifted to 0.25-0.3 litres/ha. "And we put in a bit of Bravo and Fortress to beef it up." Unix (cyprodinil) is being tried on the barley.
• South-west. Increased fungicide doses are keeping on top of cereal disease so far, reports Stewart Hayllor. "But I reckon they have cost us an extra £4/acre." Septoria in one late sprayed wheat field was cause for concern, but high rate Opus has prevented disease hitting the top two leaves.