Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 26 February 2017

Learning some new lessons at home and abroad

Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Ireland is importing a lot of seeds from Britain
Ireland is importing a lot of seeds from Britain

Every day is a school day for me and in the last month I have learnt, that I know very little.

There were many different tillage shows and open days during June. Teagasc had a super open day in Oak Park last week.

The work and effort that went into growing crops and different varieties was very impressive.

I always look very carefully at their new varieties. It's all well and good looking at how a particular variety is on paper but it's only when it has grow in Irish soil and dealt with the Irish weather that I really trust the research.

They have also been working with a new nitrogen product that I saw at another show. I'm very interested to see how well it works in a farm situation as fertiliser is such a big expense. If this one works half as well as they claim it could be a product for us in the future.

We also had a really interesting trip with ITLUS (Irish Tillage and Land Use Society) to a wind farm in the midlands.

I know they are very controversial but I have to admit if I was given a choice of nuclear, incinerator or wind power, I'd prefer wind. We also went to Robert Wilson Wright's farm where he was a mine of information.

It gives me a real buzz when you hear a farmer speaking with passion, whether that is about crops or his amazing garden.

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The biggest day out was over to the Cereals Show in Lincolnshire. If someone was to ask me what the theme of this year's show was, I would have to say catch crops and black grass.

Britain seems to have a big problem controlling black grass because of herbicide resistance.

Although we do have black grass here it hasn't become a problem yet. Ireland imports a lot of seed from Britain so it is something we need to watch very carefully.

The information we got about catch crops was a little bit disappointing.

We were told by researchers that many of the mixes we were going to use won't be in the ground long enough to do any significant nitrogen fixing if we plant them in August until March.

This is especially true for clovers.

We can look at it as a green cover and green manure, but to get a real nitrogen boost it needs more time. Some mixes are also very expensive.

If it's only going to be a green manure I can see a lot of farmers going into the back of the shed and seeing what they find.

That may be a bit of an old bag of oats, rape, grass seed or beans and making their own cheap mixes.

We also need to take the other crops in the rotation into account.

We could be introducing other problems if we put in a crop that needs rotation to avoid diseases.

Another product that really caught my attention was a mousse that kills mice and rats.

We kept our grain longer this year than normal and combined with the mild winter we had trouble keeping them under control.

You spray the mousse around the tracks and holes where the rodents pass.

This then sticks to their coat, they lick it off and it kills them.

The advantages are that its easy to use and they can't take it away. I'm not sure if it's available in Ireland, but I do think I'll be asking them if they are going to get it in. It sounds very handy.

Smoke bomb

Another brand new product is a smoke bomb to kill insects and weevils that can be used in sheds and not just in silos.

Normally smoke can only be used in a sealed environment but these are a brand new product especially designed for sheds.

This would be really useful at this time of year when we are cleaning out the sheds.

Rather than the spray we are using at the moment we could just light a match and shut the door.

Although we are completely covered with all our protective clothing I still don't like using the spray. We look like space men walking around in our white suits and gas masks.

When we looked into it though we would need an awful lot of the smoke bombs as our sheds are very high and designed to be able to tip an arctic trailer.

This makes them uneconomical for now, but new products such as this will come down in price as they begin to be mass-produced.

Finally, now that the sheds are washed, it's countdown time till harvest.

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

hharris@ independent.ie

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