Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Nutrients help, but higher yield needs the weather

Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Everything is behind schedule this year, but some more so than others. We have winter barley with the heads out and spring barley that is very short despite our best efforts to get it to grow.

The winter wheat has received 180 units of nitrogen and 300g per ha of manganese.

We are not sure which is having the stronger greening effect on the crop.

It could be that the crop is taking in the nitrogen very slowly when we spread it because of the cold weather we had, or it may be the manganese working.

The crop was lacking in manganese before we used it. Last year, we also used bitter salts and the magnesium in the salts helped the crop stay greener for longer.

This in turn helped it fill the head better on such a dull year. We will be using bitter salts again this year after having some effect on our bushel weight.

We had a Teagasc farm walk on our farm a couple of weeks ago, and Michael Hennessy from Teagasc advised us that spring barley normally has six-to-eight tillers on each plant at this time of year.

The plant should finish with about four-to-six tillers, depending on how much fertiliser and nutrients it can take up.

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Ours has three to four at this stage so we need to help it keep its tillers and not lose any. This is a challenge this year as we can give it the fertiliser and nutrients it needs, but if it doesn't get the weather there is nothing we can do. If the tillers don't grow and fill or die altogether, it will mean a much lower yield.

It was also very interesting listening to Ivan Whitten from Teagasc go through our machinery costs.

If we didn't rent land our machinery costs would be €214/ac.

With the rented land added in it is €179/ac. However, if we decided not to dry our own grain that would fall to €141/ac.

This figure is much higher than I expected. He used our actual machinery cost, not an estimate.

When you try and calculate how much you can give for rented land I'm not sure most farmers would include a figure this high. It also shows the significance of the cost of drying the grain.


Every year in June when we finish spraying, we sit down and calculate what each crop has actually cost us.

This year will be no different. However, only using two sprays on our winter barley rather than three has saved us a lot of expense.

One spray alone could cost us €1,000. This happened because such a long spell of cold weather prevented any disease pressure.

For our T1 on winter barley we went with Proline at 0.4l/ha, Jenton at 1l/ha, Bravo at 1l/ha, Reaper at 1l/ha and Modus at 0.15l/ha.

We followed this with one packet of Barley Pack per 4ha and Bravo at 1l/ha once the awns were fully out.

The spring barley got Calibre at one packet per 6ha, IPU at 1.5l/ha, aphicide at 1l/ha, manganese at 300g/ha and CeCeCe at 1l/ha to try and help the tillers. It also got 1.3 bags to the acre of CAN (27pc N) to bring it up to 130 units of nitrogen used.

The winter wheat spray programme was Pacifica at 300g/ha, Biopower as a sticker and Calibre SX Max at one pack per 6ha for weeds.

We used IPU earlier in the year to control weeds but it did not work well because of the cold weather.

Three weeks later we went out with our T1 of Cauldron at 1.5l/ha, Bravo at 1l/ha, Modus at 0.1l/ha and Reaper at 1l/ha for cleavers.

The oil seed rape has compaction strips in it and the flowering has made this even more obvious.

We have sprayed it with Caramba at 0.75l/ha, Boron at 300g/ha and Karate at one packet for every 5ha to control pollen beetle.

So far, this semi-dwarf variety has failed to impress and we will wait until it goes over the weighbridge before we make our final decision, but at the moment we would be reluctant to grow it again. I would love to be surprised when harvest comes.

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

Irish Independent