Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Green cover fears add to farmers' weather worries

Patrick J Phelan

Last Wednesday night's rain finished most hopes of sowing winter barley this year. It also brought another problem -- meeting the requirement for the establishment of green cover following the ploughing of arable land or the application of a non-selective herbicide to arable land or grassland.

Failure to establish green cover within six weeks of ploughing arable land between July 1 and October 15 will lead to penalties on the Single Farm Payment under cross-compliance requirements. Where grassland is ploughed in the same period, there is a requirement for green cover establishment by November 1.

Farmers who ploughed land this autumn and are now unable to sow are under enough pressure without running the additional risk of having their Single Farm Payment penalised. The normal deadline for sowing winter barley of October 20 has, in the past, often been stretched to early November, if soil conditions were good. This year that will certainly not be a runner. November-sown wheat is still an option but difficult to justify unless soil conditions and rotation are right. Wheat sown after permanent pasture and first and, possibly, second wheat after a break crop has the potential to make money only if sown into good seedbeds.

The nitrate regulations specify that grassland must not be ploughed between October 16 and November 30.

This will prevent farmers who cannot sow arable land from ploughing grassland instead.

Farmers who sprayed a non-selective herbicide (eg pre-harvest glyphosate) last August/ September are also liable to penalties, as they are required to take necessary measures to provide a green cover within six weeks. This would normally have been done by either sowing a winter crop, catch crop, cover crop, reseeding or cultivation.

In many cases those options have not been possible. There are also some farmers who sprayed glyphosate last August with the intention of reseeding grassland who are facing a similar problem.

Given so little opportunity to carry out field work, you should take the opportunity to finalise crop pesticide and fertiliser records for 2012. It is very important to ensure that you have the correct PCS numbers for all chemicals. If not fully recorded, make sure to check them before you dispose of empty chemical containers, all of which must be triple rinsed before collection or delivery to an authorised management company. Finalise your fertiliser records and file them away -- they must be kept for at least five years.

Also Read

Most, if not all, farmers have tested their arable lands for soil organic matter and consider that they are okay for the 10-year period. However, you may have neglected to test land which you farmed for the first time this year or indeed lands which had not been in tillage for six years at the time of testing. Check your records and if necessary arrange for additional testing to be done.

If you have been fortunate enough to have been able to sow oilseed rape, you need to continue to monitor for slug damage. In the past week, I have walked crops ranging in growth stage from early cotyledon sown on September 22, to eight true leaves sown on August 18. Slugs have done damage to all these crops but not to the extent that might have been expected.

That said, all crops have had an application of slug pellets and some two doses. Surprisingly, flea beetle damage is evident on some crops but lack of sunshine and rain gave more than adequate control. Monitoring of aphid numbers at 11 locations throughout the country by ITCA members has shown that there is considerable movement of aphids onto emerging crops. Therefore, despite the weather, use of an aphicide at the two-to-three leaf stage is still essential.

Patrick J. Phelan is a member of ACA and ITCA and can be contacted at

Indo Farming