Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

How to make the most of organics and minimise costly fertiliser bills

Joe and Andrew Fleming, Timahoe, Co. Laois zero grazing their own way by baling the freshly cut grass to being in for feed at Timahoe on Saturday 24 October 2015. Picture: Alf Harvey/
Joe and Andrew Fleming, Timahoe, Co. Laois zero grazing their own way by baling the freshly cut grass to being in for feed at Timahoe on Saturday 24 October 2015. Picture: Alf Harvey/
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

The Taoiseach has talked about making this the best little country to do business in and whatever your political persuasion it is obvious he still has quite a lot of work to do to achieve this.

There is no doubt, however, that this is the best little country for producing a variety of weather that can frustrate to the point of despair and then in the space of a few days lift the spirits and makes us all happy to be alive and farming.

This harvest and autumn is a good example of this phenomenon.

We have just ended the longest, most drawn out and frustrating harvest for a very long time and while yields have been exceptional there were many sleepless nights encountered by farmers before their harvest was safe. Yet this was followed by possibly the best ever sowing season encountered in many a long year.

Since the sowing of winter barley commenced in mid-September conditions have never been as good with a result that the winter sown acreage has increased. It appears, from trade sources, that winter barley sowings are up about 7-8pc on 2014 sowings which in itself had record winter barley sowings.

Winter wheat sowing is in full flow at the moment but certainly looks like ending up at possibly 15-20pc up on last year which would bring us to 62,000 to 64,000 hectares of wheat nationally. This is still behind the highs of 80,000ha previously reached.

Other crops, such as winter oil seed rape and oats will probably hold their own in the acreage sown compared to last year.

Considering the prices farmers are achieving when settling accounts, this increase is surprising until you consider the weather that we have enjoyed recently.

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From a crop management point of view there are really two issues that need to be addressed at the moment. The last date for applying FYM is next Saturday, October 31; the last date for slurry spreading was October 15. With the good weather conditions the opportunity should be grasped to ensure that farmyards are clear coming into the winter.

The accompanying table gives an indication of the values of the various organic fertilisers available based on indicative fertiliser prices and highlights how farmers can maximise the use of organic fertiliser while minimising fertiliser costs.

Farmers should use the next couple of months to review their organic fertiliser options and look to link their enterprises with their neighbours who may be in a positon to supply some organic fertiliser and, particularly, who may wish to come to some arrangement for the supply of forage next season.

Unfortunately, the short and medium term prospects for prices are very poor so that next harvest's prices will likely remain significantly less than those required for break-even.

While this year's yields saved a lot of growers, the same level of yields cannot be expected again.

Despite the poor milk price at the moment dairy farmers are still reasonably optimistic for the future and many will look to try to reduce their costs as a consequence of the poorer prices.

Opportunities exist for tillage growers to provide fodder to dairy farmers in the form of cereals, beet, maize and other crops.

There is also the potential to grow grass for silage or grazing for their neighbours. If the two different farming enterprises can come to some arrangement for next season it will be mutually beneficial for both. It will reduce costs for the dairy man and secure markets at reasonable prices for the tillage man.


The second area of management relates to the control of aphids. Any crop sown in September or early October and not treated with Redigo Deter should have been treated already for BYDV and should receive a further treatment in early November.

If a second spray is required Chlorpyrifos should be used to minimise resistance risks. One aphid spray with a Pyrethroid will probably suffice for later sown crops.

This should be done at the 2/3 leaf stage. If crops are sufficiently advanced and weeds germinated the autumn herbicide can also be applied.

Believe it or not, the rain last week was welcome and will encourage weed germination and lead to better weed control. By using the standard herbicide option, DFF plus IPU, particularly in clean ground, most weeds will be controlled.

In the case of big weeds consider the addition of 0.5l/ha of Spitfire. In high annual meadow grass (AMG) situations consider using 2L Defy plus 0.1L DFF per hectare either as a pre-emergence spray or early post emergence.

Please note this is only an option as pre-emerge on barley.

Oil seed rape crops have emerged well and are looking good with ground cover in most crops.

Cereal volunteers are plentiful and treatment with a Graminicide is recommended now. A half rate of Boron plus a product such as Nutriphite would also be beneficial especially for the less well established crops.

Pat Minnock is a Carlow based agricultural consultant and a member of the ACA and the ITCA.

Indo Farming