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Green Light for Field Work: Irish Weather Conditions Take a Turn for the Better!

Met Éireann Predicts Improved Weather Conditions for Field Work This Week

Met Éireann has announced that weather conditions should improve this week with “increased sunshine” after continuous rain and poor ground conditions recently brought all field work to a halt. The meteorological service also advised that there will “be some opportunities for spraying this week when moderate winds ease up at times”.

The poor weather conditions have significantly impacted on tillage operations, according to Mark Plunkett, a specialist in soil and plant nutrition with Teagasc. Plunkett stated that many winter crops still await their main nitrogen (N) application, which should be a priority as the weather improves and field conditions recover. He also said that early sown spring crops are at or close to requiring their main N split.

For spring crops that have not been sown yet, farmers should use a suitable compound fertiliser such as ‘10-10-20’ or ‘12-8-20’ or ‘13-6-20’ on Index 1 or 2 fertility soils, according to the Teagasc specialist. On Index 3 sites, 13-6-20 is a well-balanced fertiliser option for spring barley. Growers should aim to apply 370kg/ha (3 bags/ac) at sowing time and, where possible, combine drill. This would be especially the case on low index soils to increase fertiliser phosphorous (P) efficiency and supply.

Applying sufficient P is essential for rapid root and tiller development, and it is a critical nutrient in spring barley during the first three to six weeks of establishment. Trial work carried out in spring barley clearly shows the benefits of combining P, especially on low P Index sites. Potassium (K) is very important for N efficiency, grain yield development, and straw strength and quality. A number of trials carried out in Arklow, Co. Wicklow confirmed the importance of K in grain yield formation and N efficiency. The trials also highlighted the role of K in reducing the effects of straw brackling prior to harvest. However, they suggested that K untreated plots were more tolerant to foliar diseases such as powdery mildew infection.

Growers should keep a close eye on fields that are being ploughed out of long-term grass, as these sites may have very low soil P & K levels, resulting in crop nutrient deficiencies. P is needed in the seedbed zone and close to the rapidly developing plant roots. Growers should, therefore, ensure sufficient available fertiliser P and K are applied at sowing time.

For spring crops still to be sown, growers should aim to supply approximately 30% of a crop’s N requirements in the seedbed. The remaining N and sulphur (S) should be applied once tramlines are visible. For early-sown malting barley crops, these should be top-dressed with N + S, once soil conditions are suitable. For feeding barley crops, growers should aim to apply remaining crop N + S requirements at mid-tillering in a single application or, alternatively, on the basis of a 70:30 split. All N applications by should be completed stem extension; or growth stage (GS_ 31/32). The recommended application rate for S is 15kg/ha.

Where organic fertilisers have been applied, growers should adjust final applications to take account of N supplied. For example, an application of 33mᶾ/ha of cattle slurry by low emission spreading equipment – and ploughed in rapidly thereafter – can supply approximately 33kg of N/ha. This represents a saving in chemical N of approximately €65/ha at today’s fertiliser prices.

According to Plunkett, test results are a very good indication of the soil supply of both copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn). However, the soil test option is not as reliable for manganese (Mn), deficiencies of which tend to be most prevalent on sandy or lights soils. This issue is similarly prevalent in recently limed or high pH soils, poorly consolidated seedbeds, or under dry and cold weather conditions. Growers should, therefore, ensure that seedbeds are well consolidated after sowing, where possible. For example, sites ploughed out of grass leys should be flat-rolled after sowing to improve seed to soil contact to reduce the incidence of Mn and other nutrient deficiencies.

Where trace element deficiencies are anticipated based on soil test results, the inclusion of trace elements in base fertilisers at sowing is a very good strategy. Alternatively, crops can be foliar treated with trace elements, once sufficient leaf is present for uptake.

Categories: Agriculture