Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

All set for the harvest, now we need the weather

I have biceps like Katie Taylor after all the power washing. First we did the sheds, then the yards and lastly the machinery. Everything is shining, ready for harvest. All we need now is the weather.

It's not just the rain that's worrying us, it's also the lack of sunshine.

The six weeks of June and the beginning of July is when the plant fills the head and this is the difference between a good and bad yield. If you follow the markets they keep saying the price is good. It's only good if you have the right bushel weight and enough tonnes.

If the yield is down by a tonne to the acre, which some analysts are suggesting, we would need the price at least €50/t more than last year to pay for all the inputs.

At the moment we are looking at our wet patches in the fields and wondering about getting the crop out before we start worrying about its quality. The tram lines are flooded and water is still sitting on some headlands.

The winter barley is beginning to turn. The colour is changing and Phil has checked it with his thumb nail. If the imprint stays, it's getting close. This means it's ready for Round-Up.

The six-row Leibniz winter barley has a surprisingly small head on it. It will be interesting to see the bushel weight and yield when it is harvested.


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The crows have started on the wheat now and are moving away from the barley, so you can tell that it's ripening too.

The winter wheat seems to be coping well in this year's weather conditions. JB Diego is the only variety that looks a little bit dirty.

We will be keeping an eye on whether we will need to go back out with another spray for septoria. It is very important to have different varieties of crops, with different strengths and not have all your eggs in one basket.

This helps spread the risk so that if something does go wrong that it won't affect the entire crop.

At this time of the year we get to see trial plots to see new varieties and how they grow in our Irish conditions.

Teagasc have done a lot of research in this department and we, as part of a growers group, trial the new varieties every year.

We also went to Drummonds/Liffey Mills trial plot demonstrations in Townrath, Drogheda.

We were particularly interested in the oilseed rape varieties as we are thinking of growing some next year.

It was very interesting to see the dwarf varieties compared to the taller traditional ones that are struggling to stand this year.

They may not yield as much as traditional varieties but as they told us on the day, if you can't get all your seed into the tank of the combine, due to lodging, it won't do better.

Sometimes new products can sound too good to be true, however, we tried a seed dressing called Redigo Deter on some seed we dressed last year.

We left some of the field without the dressing to compare.

The seed dressed with the Deter germinated quicker and more vigorously than the seed without it and was about four inches ahead when fully grown.

The biggest difference in the crop was in BYDV control. Because of the mild winter and serious aphid pressure in the autumn and through the winter, the treated seed had much better prevention than the untreated seed.

We may not get this response on a winter of hard frost but this year it was certainly a benefit. We are planning to use more of it this year.

At the open day there were many different varieties of wheat and barley to study. It was interesting to compare them side by side to see the differences.

As part of the pre-harvest work we have been checking all our machinery. Lights, brakes and tyre pressure are all checked.

If this year is a wet harvest we will have to use more pedestals in our grain. We have bought these in the past but none have worked as well as our own home made ones.

We had also planned to get drainage work done after harvest, but as it looks like a late harvest this year that might not be possible.

Helen and Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email:

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