Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Plan ahead for 2011

Dr Richard Hackett

The harvest of the 2010 crop is progressing, with yields best described as 'ordinary enough' in most cases. Many crops that had the appearance of having good potential through the growing season did not perform as anticipated, particularly winter oats and winter wheat.

The severe weather that crops have endured since planting has taken its toll on yield, conspiring to reduce the capacity of crops to yield to their potential. Nevertheless, some crops performed very well, and combined with higher grain prices and a good price and demand for straw, the outcome of the 2010 crop looks much better than would have been anticipated even a few months ago.

2011 crop

The circus moves on and planning for the 2011 cropping should be underway. The question that has to be asked from the 2010 crops is that if a crop rotation is not in place, with or without organic manure inputs, then why not?

Given that higher yields at lower costs can be achieved by changing practice, every cropping programme should be examined to establish whether changes can be made to secure the long-term productivity of the farm without resorting to increasing input levels. Examples of change include growing a portion of the land to other crops such as, grass, oilseed rape, peas, beans, bringing in potatoes or vegetables in to the rotation, or bringing in organic manures.

Organic manures

Given the low levels of chemical P and K that have been used recently in response to poor returns, soil reserves are depleting and will result in a huge cost to replenish. Obtaining sources of organic P and K from those that have a problem in getting rid of their nutrients, such as pig, poultry highly stocked livestock farms, or local authorities, will lead to a win-win situation. One barrier is the inconsistent approach by authorities to the movement of such material. The nitrates regulations outline a reasonable approach to movement of organic manures that fulfils most requirements. However, local authorities then impose rules that can bear little resemblance to the regulations. Local authorities have invested heavily in sewage treatment and brown bin collections which produce vast quantities of organic material that needs to be spread. A workable set of rules is badly needed.

Oilseed rape

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Oilseed rape should be sown from now. Variety selection is based on the sowing date, with low biomass crops better sown early, pure lines for the late August/early September slots and hybrid varieties for late-sown situations. Once sown, regular monitoring for slugs is essential. Once slug activity is observed, apply a methiocarb or metaldehyde-based pellet. Monitoring of slug activity will be required over the winter.

Herbicide choice ranges from metazachor-based herbicides used pre-emerge within 48 hours of sowing, or post-emergence from when the crop has two fully expanded cotyledons but before weeds have emerged, or later in the season with a propyzamide-based product when the crop has established.

Soil sampling

The rules of cross compliance outlines that for soils greater than six years in tillage, parcels must be analysed for organic matter. For 2010, 50pc of the land claimed under the single farm payment must be analysed. This is an ideal time to also analyse for levels of P, K, pH and lime, given the depletion of soil reserves.

Irish Independent