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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Scrambling to get all our house in order ahead of harvest time

tillage

Helen Harris

Published 14/06/2011 | 05:00

I love this time of year. The crops look super -- fully grown but still dark green. We have finished our spraying by getting out our T3. Now, we wait until harvest.

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This year for our T3 spray we went with Presaro at 0.8l/ha, Modem at 0.4l/ha and dimethox at just under 0.5l/ha. The reason we went with this combination is because we had already used two Opus products in our spray programme.

This time last year we did not spray for aphids and then had to go back into the crop two weeks later and spray again. We are trying to avoid that this year. The crops can be very susceptible to scorch at this time of year so we added Sprayfast to help the leaf absorb the spray. It also makes the spray more rain fast, which helps in changeable showery weather.

This year the crops were very clean. We have little or no wild oats, however we do have sterile brome on many headlands. I have no one to blame but myself, as that is down to bad ploughing. It's more difficult to cover the sod at the corners of the headland. My father-in-law taught me how to plough, and he competed at All-Ireland level so I'm sure he's not impressed.

It's time to prepare the rest of the farm for harvest too. We'll pull out the combine, a 2001 Claas Lexion 450, and get it running. We usually have it fully serviced at this time of year at a cost of about €1,000.

As a machine that is only working for a few weeks of the year, you can't have any risk of it breaking down. It doesn't mean it won't break down, but you hope you are reducing the chance. We also have the same conversation every year about changing the combine. A brand new combine of similar make and model would cost about €220,000.

We already know what the bank's answer will be if we went in and asked them for the money. This has led to many manufacturers having to give 0pc finance to sell their machines. More realistic for us would be a good second-hand one.

This would probably cost us about €60,000 along with our own. Either way we will have to borrow big money. When is the right year to change? Each year you leave it, your own is worth less and the next one will cost you more.

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The tractors have jobs all year round so they are normally running fine. Sometimes we give them a quick service. Next are the trailers. We give them a good going over, especially the lights and brakes, as we have to do road work. Then we come to the tyres. We are members of ITLUS (Irish Tillage and Land Use Society) and went to two interesting field days a couple of weeks ago. Teagasc did a demonstration on the damage of wheel compaction in fields. It was really interesting to see the comparison between the different tyres and the different pressures.

There are new tyres with softer rubber that can bend more on the edge called Axio. These seem to do much less damage on a field. In an ideal world we just wouldn't drive in a wet field to avoid compaction, but in 2008 and 2009 we had no choice if we wanted to get the crop in.

We also have a Master dryer that can hold 27t. It gets taken out, cleaned down and serviced as well. This year we have to make sure the jets are set up for the new specification diesel. It's then put into position outside under a canopy ready to go. Then there are the sheds themselves.

First, we empty them of machinery parts and junk that we gather for the year and check that the roofs aren't leaking. Then we power wash them, top to bottom, wait a few days to dry and spray them with Actellic to make sure there is no possibility of grain mites in the shed. Then they're left clean and empty until harvest.

So, it's the calm before the storm. I hope that's only a saying and not a prediction of the weather.

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

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