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Wednesday 7 December 2016

A lift in the weather would do nicely for the wheat harvest

Tillage

Helen Harris

Published 09/08/2011 | 05:00

I record the 7:55am Met Eireann weather forecast every morning. I have three weather apps on my phone, Irish weather, Met Check and Ask Moby. Unfortunately, they never seem to agree.

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This time of the year we are obsessed with the weather -- so much depends on it. We can rewind and listen as often as we like to the recorded forecasts.

But what I want to know is what time exactly is "this afternoon" or "this evening".

We wanted to go spraying last week to burn off the headlands and fields with a scutch grass problem. Despite all the forecasting technology, we found the best way to work out whether we should go spraying or not was to look out the window.

The crops are looking particularly clean this year, except the one field with scutch grass. The Cheetah we used this year to control wild oats seems to have worked really well.

We used it at 0.7L/ha, which resulted in no spring- germinating wild oats, which we normally would have. We sprayed with a generic glyphosate and we found it slow to work.

However, we have spoken to a neighbour who used Roundup Gold and he said it was slow to work too, so I think it was more down to the weather and crop conditions than the products. We sprayed off all our barley to help even up the crop before harvest, which left it much easier to bale.

We also went out twice with growth regulator in the barley as we were concerned about it standing. In hindsight, it may not have needed both and we have slightly less straw because of it.

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We got all our barley cut and it came in at 15-18pc moisture, which is perfect, as we dry and store all our crops. This also cleans all the chaff and awns out of the grain, which helps the bushel weight.

Problems

If it was much lower in moisture, you would have problems with it being too dry coming off the dryer. The two-row Anisette variety bushelled at 70 dried and the six-row Leibniz variety bushelled at 68 dried. Between the two, we got 3.93t/ac, which we were very happy with.

We get the first batch oven tested to check our moisture meter is reading correctly and we can calibrate it from this sample. When the drying cycle is finished, the barley is 42°C and it then spends about one hour cooling in the dryer until it reaches 24°C.

We unload the dryer into the shed and put pedestals and fans into the heap of barley to keep it cool. It is very important to keep a check on the temperature of the barley and wheat to prevent hot spots. We check our stocks weekly throughout the year and move the fans around accordingly.

The wheat is, in general, looking well. The old reliable Einstein may not be a great looking crop but it always seems to perform well when cut. Our plan was to grow a small bit of a new variety, Kingdom, to keep for seed but it is disappointing.

It started well but seems to have become vulnerable to disease. All will be revealed when we cut it and have a look at the yield.

We have been using Einstein for many years and had hoped to change to keep varieties fresh, but if Kingdom has not done well for us, we may have to rethink what we will use in the autumn.

Grafton and JB Diego look promising so we will definitely keep them. It's useful to have trial plots to compare new varieties, whether that's in Teagasc or trade merchants. It's the only way to see how the seed will cope on a large scale in real Irish conditions and weather.

Now that the barley fields are cleared, we are already thinking of the new crop and hoping to disc it as soon as possible to create a stale seed bed to control sterile brome and other grass weeds. We will try to disc the headlands again before ploughing to have a clean seed bed for the new crop.

If everyone could have a word with the man above for fine weather for the next couple of weeks, it would be appreciated.

Helen Harris farms with her husband Philip in Co Kildare. Email: helenharrisfarm@gmail.com

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