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Thursday 8 December 2016

It's time to replenish land after last year's cutbacks

PJ Phelan

Published 01/03/2011 | 05:00

Some fancy prices have been paid for cereal ground again this year but this must be balanced against possible returns for growers
Some fancy prices have been paid for cereal ground again this year but this must be balanced against possible returns for growers

This time last year, Liffey Mills gave a badly needed reassurance to farmers by offering €100/t for barley. We waited eagerly for other merchants to follow. Some farmers decided to leave land fallow.

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This year, full of optimism, land is making "mad" money, in some instances, guaranteeing that the improved grain price will not be converted into profit for tillage farmers.

Is there a 'feel-good' factor to paying the highest price in the area that keeps those guys going? If renting, then do your costings, including increased fertiliser and fuel prices.

Remember also that most land has been depleted of nutrients over the past two years due to a combination of reduced fertiliser rates and that very little straw was returned. A 10t/ha crop of wheat or barley will have removed 38kg of P and 98kg of K.

Land which has only received 375kg/ha (3 bags/ac) of 18:6:12 each year for the past two years will have only received 45kg P and 90kg K -- not enough K for one year's harvest, not to mind two harvests.

Use this year to replenish K on land after the previous year's cutbacks. Soil at index 1 for K requires 160kg K for winter oats; 140kg K for winter wheat, barley/spring oats, 130kg K for spring wheat and 115kg K for spring barley.

This year's crops

Winter wheat and barley crops have generally tillered very well and wheat after rape is looking particularly well. Birds continue to be a problem, particularly on min-till fields. Grass weed control, where necessary, should take place as soon as ground conditions permit.

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Some wheat crops on ley ground are suffering from potash deficiency. Apply potash as soon as possible. Crops on earlier soils will respond well to urea in the present soft growing conditions. However, if Ps and Ks are low use 10:10:20 and/or 0:7:30. August to mid-September-sown rape is looking well and is recovering from bird damage; later sown crops are still struggling but root development appears good.

Sprayers

This year you will put €5,500- €12,000 worth of chemicals through your sprayers for every 100 acres you manage. If you want to get the best out of that chemical you must ensure that it is sprayed evenly.

Most farmers now rely on electronic controls to get their application rate correct, but few make the effort to ensure that each nozzle is supplying the correct amount of chemical. I contacted 24 farmers in the past two weeks to find that only three of them check individual nozzle outputs.

Give a half day this week to get the sprayer ready for action:

1. Remove all filters and nozzles and clean with a soft brush or use a knife on metallic parts. Wash them in a detergent;

2. Fill the tank with water, agitate and pump through all hoses and the boom until you are certain that all solid residues -- dried traces of chemical and other residues from wear or corrosion -- are pumped through. The addition of a wetting agent or proprietary spray tank cleaner could pay dividends;

3. Replace filters and nozzles;

4. Use a graduated jug to compare nozzle output across the boom. If there is a variation between nozzles of more than 10pc, you should replace either the individual nozzles that are out or replace all.

Cheaper nozzles generally give poor reliability and must be replaced frequently.

If you find that one section of the boom has a different output to the other sections, it is likely that the problem lies with the regulator for that section.

In general, line filters are preferable to individual nozzle filters as blockages/part blockages at individual nozzles are difficult to detect during spraying.

Chlorothanonil products and powders cause greatest wear and most blockages, and require more frequent cleaning of filters and replacement of nozzles.

Finally, check that you have the full range of personal protective equipment. This should include:

  • Gloves (neoprene or nitrile)
  • Face protection consisting of goggles or a visor and a face mask
  • An outer coverall to avoid drift/chemical residues on your clothing
  • Boots that will not absorb pesticides.

Patrick J Phelan is a member of the ITCA and may be contacted at pj.phelan@itca.ie

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