Agronomist, Richard Owens, has confirmed that continuing wet conditions are hampering cereal growers form getting on with critically important field work.

“Some areas were hit that little bit harder with the weather than others. As a rule of thumb, 65% was as much of the envisaged planting work that cereal growers in NI managed to achieve last autumn,” he said.

It has been estimated that between 60% and 65% of the targeted winter cereal planting levels were achieved in Northern Ireland last back end.

Richard Owens is confirming high levels of Net Blotch in winter barley crops at the present time

“Of the crops that were put in, it has been a very challenging and wet backend, winter and now early spring.

“Many crops have been water logged on and off, over the past few months,” Owens said.

It’s not all bad news, as according to Owens, many winter barley crops have now received their first application of fertiliser.

“Disease pressure is also an issue on many crops as well. Where barley is concerned, many crops have passed the T0 stage and are fast heading towards the production of the first node,” he said.

Diseases that can impact on winter barley crops at this stage of the season include net blotch and rhynchosporium.

“The use of a PGR will help boost tiller numbers and tiller numbers, which is a key determinant of final yields,” he added.

Given these circumstances, the agronomists is encouraging farmers to get a combined PGR and fungicide spray mix applied to winter barley crops as soon as possible.

Winter wheat

Where winter wheat is concerned, Richard Owens is confirming the greater difficulty that growers had in planting out crops, relative to winter barley.

“The reality is that winter wheat is struggling in places, particularly where ground conditions were particularly wet.

“But wheat, in contrast to barley, has the potential to recover well. It is a hardier crop.”

Some farmers might look at the option of stitching in a new cereal option within exiting crops that have had fared particularly over the recent months.

“In these instances, the option of getting a final crop fit for the combine is very remote.

“Stitching in is an option best suited to dairy and livestock farms, where the crops can be cut for silage later in the season,” Owens said.

Spring barley

Turning to spring crops, the agronomist confirmed that barley seed is coming in from a range of Eastern European countries, including Poland the Czech Republic.

“All of this goes back to last year’s dreadful harvest and the very poor quality seed crops harvested in the UK at that time.

“Arable farmers in NI will know some of the imported varieties coming in. However, some will be totally new to them.

“The real challenge for farmers will be that of getting the sowing window they need to get crops into the ground,” the agronomist said.

Owens cited the varieties Diablo and Feedway as being currently available to growers of spring barley.


“I would not dispute the quality of the imported seed at all, but price will be an issue. Seed produced locally will be on-farm at around £580/t. The equivalent price for imported spring barley seed will be in the region of £750,” he said.

Challenging weather

The forecast for the next week and beyond contains rain. According to Owens, the later the spring sowing date, the lower will be the yield potential for cereal crops.

“This is one of the worst years that I can remember, stretching as far back as the end of last June.

“The weather has not settled at all – nutrient uptake levels have been poor. It has just had a continuing knock-on effect. This will impact final yield figures later in the season.

“Farmers are in a real dire situation. They need the weather to pick up as quickly as possible. But, unfortunately, there is no sign of this happening at the moment,” he stressed.