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It took some trial and error but we got through the drill


The Duncan Renovator drill has two long hoppers and individual funnels into each down spout.

The Duncan Renovator drill has two long hoppers and individual funnels into each down spout.

The Duncan Renovator drill has two long hoppers and individual funnels into each down spout.

I couldn't believe it when my husband Phil said that we were going to put 21 different trial plots into a 2ac field with a 3m wide, one-pass drill.

When we suggested to our Teagasc advisor Ivan Whitten, that we would do a small patch of different catch crops, we all agreed it would be a great idea. We could get a lot of information to help with decisions if we wanted to do catch crops in the future. Seeding rate, costs and then results, but we could see what worked and what didn't.

But we didn't really think it through. When all the little bags of seed arrived I started scratching my head. How on earth could we plant 400-500g of each type of seed. We didn't even have enough to calibrate the machine.

We rang a friend Tom Tierney who has bought a 3m Duncan Renovator drill. This direct drill has two long hoppers and individual funnels into each down spout. We power-harrowed the field and it came up really well.

We then poured the tiny bags of seed into three of the down spouts and repeated the process across the 3-metre drill leaving gaps to define the plots.

It was trial and error, although possibly more error than trial. Myself and Phil stood on the back of the drill and tried to keep the seed flowing.

We then shouted to Tom on the tractor when the seed had run out. We continued this across the field until we had the 2ac sown.

What it will look like or what we can learn will be debatable but at least it's in the ground.

The crops we started off with were phacelia, vetch, rye, mustard, forage rape, peas, beans, radish, clover, turnip, oil seed rape, buckwheat and different mixes of those crops. For example, one was a turnip-radish-clover mix.

We also did some wild flowers and I made a donation to the Kildare hospice and got some sunflower seeds.

We also used two different types of fertiliser on the field. One half has Dynamo, which is composted chicken-litter pellets. The other half has a gypsum-based chicken-litter pellet called Solucal, spread on it.

Every crop might not be a complete success and we may learn very little but we will know how not to do it. As soon as its up I'll put up a few photos on twitter. The other crops are wondering if summer is ever coming. It stayed so cold for so long. There isn't the normal disease pressure for this time of year. Our T1 ran late on the winter wheat and it was barely three weeks to T2.

We reduced our rate for the flag leaf and went with 1.6/ha of Adexar and 1/ha of Bravo. In general the winter wheat is looking quite clean. This could change dramatically if we get warm weather after rain.

The winter barley got a head spray of 1.5l of Ceriax and 1l of Bravo. The spring barley was grown in the heavier, wetter ground and is only getting the weed spray now.

It got one packet of Calibre Max to 8/ha and Optica at 1l/ha for weeds. It also got Avalon IPU at 1/l, CeCeCe at 0.5l/ha and Sparviero at 0.35l/ha for aphids.

The oilseed rape is very impressive in full bloom and very thick. We had to use the GPS to find the tram lines.

It got Amistar at 0.8l/ha and Filan at 0.3l/ha for sclerotinia stem rot.

The fertiliser is all spread. We can put out a little bit more because of the yield bonuses from last year. The winter wheat got 180 units after oilseed rape and 20 more on the continuous ground.

The winter barley got 160 units and the spring barley got a total of 130 units.

Where we ploughed in the chicken litter last autumn is very green and lush. In continuous ground you can really see the benefit. I do hope it will stay standing till harvest.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co. Kildare. Follow them on twitter @kildarefarmer.

Indo Farming