Rain welcome and unwelcome

While rain may still help crops suffering from moisture stress, it also runs the risk of causing lodging. Bits of lodging are already evident but heavy thundershowers could cause a lot more problems.

With July upon us, the start of harvest is not too far away. Some crops on dry ground may come under the knife next week, weather permitting, but these have mainly been accelerated by dry conditions. We must now hope that we get a clear run of weather for the winter barley harvest and that straw can be gathered up quickly.

A quick scan of the Met Éireann weather stations in the main tillage regions shows that most areas are only on about 40% of their 30-year average rainfall at the start of this week. This leaves concerns as to when the balance of annual rainfall will fall.

Winter barley

There is still a lot of life in some winter barley crops, which are still two to three weeks away from harvest. Many crops seem to be ripening unevenly but time will cure that. Given the controversy around pre-harvest glyphosate, try to minimise its use to where weed control is required.

Continue to take precautions against crow attacks which seem to be widespread on winter barley – slower ripening means a longer attack window. Give priority to the most vulnerable areas like crop edges, along wire fences, close to electric wires and poles, etc.

Oilseed rape

Desiccation is getting closer as many fields now have a brown hue across the top of the crop. Once this intensifies to a pale brown colour, you should begin to assess the crop for suitability for desiccation. Avoid spraying too soon as crops are maturing slowly and early treatment can result in reduced yield and oil content.

The decision as to when to desiccate should be based on the seeds. Assess seed colour in 20 pods in the middle of the main raceme in different places within the crop. The recommendation is to spray when at least two-thirds of the seeds in at least 15 of each 20 pods have turned brown or black.

This has long been regarded as the earliest correct stage for desiccation. This needs to be checked every few days until the decision is made to desiccate. Colour change can occur very quickly during warm weather.

I believe it may be beneficial to wait two to three days after the initial recommended timing is reached as many of the branches will be slightly later than the main raceme.

Tillage incentive

Growers who took measures to qualify for the tillage incentive measure must now make a formal application to actually enrol online for the new scheme.

Grass weeds

Inspect all crops for weeds, map where they are for future action and make it your business to find out what they all are. Rogue what you can but take a note of where they occur to help guide inspection and action in future years. Try to avoid carrying seed form infested areas to clean fields.