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Sunday 11 December 2016

Fact - you should have five million worms per hectare

Helen Harris

Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30

Fertiliser and slurry spreading has begun for those in drier areas.
Fertiliser and slurry spreading has begun for those in drier areas.

A few fine sunny days and the farmers around the area were like busy ants out of an ant hill. They were up and down the road with fertiliser and slurry.

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Phil was the same, as soon as he felt he could travel on the land, he was out spreading fertiliser and chicken litter pellets. The oil seed rape got 1.5 bags of sulphate of ammonia and 10.7.23 + 2S. Both the winter wheat and winter barley got four bags per acre of 10.7.23 +2S. They also got 5 bags per acre of the chicken pellets, 20N, 15K, 5S and one bag of g-lime per one bag of pellets.

The reason for the five bags of chicken pellets is that with the higher off takes from last year we need to give back to the soil. This is all the P and K they will get and it will only be nitrogen that we will spread after this.

We went down to an ITLUS (Irish Tillage and Land Use Society) meeting in Teagasc, Johnstown castle, Co Wexford. On the way down we were green with envy at the dry, sown fields.

Most of the ploughing was done whereas in Kildare we are only getting going. The land is that much heavier up here.

With that said, they did dry up quite quickly when they got the few dry days.

We had a very informative day in Johnstown Castle learning about soil and soil structure.

It's like the foundations of a house, if you don't get the foundations right, you are at nothing. The same goes for soil and growing crops. If you don't look after your soil it won't look after your crops.

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I also learnt that you should have on average five million worms per hectare. The plough and the destoner don't help the earth worm population and it's another argument for the min-till method.

The next day I was out digging holes and checking for a plough pan. I was surprised that the soils differed so much underneath.

I did find a slight plough pan in some fields but the sub-soiler which was used in the very dry weather last Autumn really did seem to work. I was very disappointed with the lack of earthworms.

This is something that we need to look at in the future, but I was impressed with how deep I could find roots.

This will help with both roots of future crops, worms and water percolation through the soil.

On the trip down we were debating whether we should spray off the green cover oats. If we did what should we go with? Spring barley, beans or peas.

We were also discussing Pat Minnock's ideas of leaving land idle this year, as the sums don't add up with recent grain prices. As we reached home that evening we had decided that this year we would chance our arm and try a new crop and went for beans.

We ploughed up the last 40 acres we had to sow and planted them in. All we need now is to keep the crows off them. However, there was another small wet field and we did take his advice and calculated that if we can't make money on it there is no point in sowing it.

I know that not planting is an even more difficult decision for farmers to make than to plant a crop.

Grain Assurance

I was reading all about Robin Talbot's struggle with the Beef Assurance scheme and I was left wondering about the grain assurance scheme. Is it fit for purpose?

At least Robin will get a premium for his product in the scheme.

There are a lot of tillage farmers not in the grain assurance scheme.

They are getting paid exactly the same as we are for grain.

We have the expense of joining. Then we have the expense of complying and on top of that an inspection every year to check that we do comply. For what?

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

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