Tillage: The latest Teagasc figures reinforce the message about the folly of costly conacre
The suggestion, last week in this section, by Pat Minnock for leaving some land fallow shocked some farmers and acted as a real wake-up call for conacre prices.
The launch of the Teagasc Costs and Returns 2016, at the Tillage Conference later in the week, showing that a 3 tonne/acre crop of spring barley is only break-even on owned land reinforces Pat's message.
The option of dropping expensive conacre and leasing out entitlements will have to be taken on lands that made little or no profit last year. Farmers who have a large bank of owned land or money can continue to rent land but if you are in the business to make profit you will have to rent land at substantially lower prices than last year.
Despite the continuous rainfall winter crops have done very well on free draining soils with good plant stands and tillering. Winter barley crops that received a growth regulator last autumn have up to 6-10 tillers/plant. Some of the looser textured soils are showing evidence of lack of soil consolidation between wheelings, with reduced plant stands and poorer tillering.
Those areas, if marginal in trace elements, are also beginning to show deficiency symptoms.
Plants in low lying areas of most fields and heavy soils have turned yellow or died due to soil saturation and flooding. An early N, P, K fertiliser application, as soon as soil can take traffic, will kick start the yellow crops; areas where plants have died may be left fallow or reseeded. Areas where spring plant recovery is poor will also be most prone to aphid attack and virus transmission.
The response to autumn weed control has been excellent. There was no opportunity in January to get in to do any spraying and the start date in February now looks to be close to the end of the month. Even if you could travel, herbicide application is not allowed on waterlogged soils or crops suffering from stress.