At last week’s Drummonds winter conference, Dave Leahy of BASF had some good advice for farmers with poor winter crops.

He told the 120-strong crowd in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, Co Meath, to approach all fields on an individual basis and urged caution before replanting fields where crops had not established.

Tillage farmers have had an extremely tough time of it of late. A wet autumn in 2022 reduced winter crop area. A wet harvest in 2023 did not help with planting crops such as oilseed rape and a wet autumn in 2023 has reduced the winter cereal area again. In total, it has dropped by over 50,000ha in the two seasons.

Many crops that are planted are in poor condition. Some did not emerge at all, while others have large bare patches.

Dave explained that an even plant stand is more important that plant numbers and he encouraged farmers to examine evenness of the crop as well as plant numbers.

He said the target plant stand for winter barley is 260 plants to 300 plants/m2 and the altered or thinner even plant stand is about 150 plants to 200 plants/m2.

On thin crops as above, the fertiliser requirements should be reduced by approximately 20%, but growers should discuss this with their agronomist.

Looking at winter wheat, Dave showed results from a Department of Agriculture trial planted in 2018. Garrus winter wheat was planted and the seed had a low germination. The plant count was low at 60 plants to 80 plants/m2, but plants were evenly distributed.

The crop of Garrus yielded 10t/ha compared with the control varieties JB Diego and Bennington, which yielded 11.82t/ha in the trial.

Planting winter wheat

Time is running out to plant winter wheat, but Drummonds’ agronomist Brian Reilly said that if ground conditions allow, farmers should plant up to the middle of February.

He encouraged growers to keep seed rates high at 230kg to 240kg/ha and to incorporate fertiliser into the seedbed to give crops a good start, similar to a spring crop.

You can hear from Brian on last week’s Irish Farmers Journal Tillage Podcast by clicking here.