Choose spring crops wisely to maximise profit
Wet fields of stubble and ploughed furrows are still the predominant landscape feature of tillage areas this January and the current soil conditions show that this is unlikely to change much in the next few weeks.
The next decision to take is what to put into these fields when it does dry up. Spring wheat has not enjoyed much success in recent years. This has mainly been due to poor conditions during the grain fill period, which for spring wheat is mid/late July into August. Shorter days and lower temperatures have not allowed for yield potential to be realised and the crop has subsequently fallen out of favour.
Spring wheat can yield very well, and often has done in the past. The focus of the agronomy of the crop is not to enhance greenness of the crop or delay maturity, but to bring forward harvest as much as possible.
Late sown winter wheat can be very frustrating to grow in the spring as it is very slow to establish and get going compared to spring varieties.
However, assuming sufficient vernalisation is achieved, a crop of winter wheat and spring wheat sown at the same time will yield similar and be harvested at the same time.
Seed availability is the main concern with spring wheat so up until the latest safe sowing date of your particular variety, winter wheat would be okay to sow if spring wheat seed cannot be sourced.
Spring barley is the next option, but land suitable for winter wheat is often not suited for spring barley as the crop doesn't suffer poor seedbeds gladly.
The main issue is to watch costs very closely. A 100ha block moved from good winter wheat to mediocre spring barley will suffer a reduction in potential output of €50,000 so this reduction has to be planned from the start. Most of the big costs are already fixed at this point: machinery repayments, labour and land costs, so the opportunities to reduce costs are very limited.