Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Ploughing a lonely furrow until all is sown


Helen Harris

Helen Harris

These days are long. We are up very early and are not back until very late. My company for the last couple of weeks has been seagulls and the radio. I've heard enough about the presidential hopefuls to write a book.

We have a few more weeks of ploughing before we can get back to normal, as long as the weather holds.

We are really lucky to have such a good team -- I plough, Phil sows and my father-in-law George rolls. It means we get it done all at the same time and cover a lot of acres quickly.

I have a five-furrow reversible Kverneland plough and it makes light work of our ground. Some years it can be sticky or slabby, but this year it is lovely and crumbly.

The disadvantage of the ground being this dry is I seem to be ploughing up a lot more stones than an average year.

At the ploughing match this year, I got to see a high standard. Many people who attend don't look at the ploughing at all, but I was very impressed. It is a technical skill and, let me tell you, these competitors make it look easy.

The Farming Independent's Darragh McCullough was competing for the first time and he was very good. I don't know if it's something I would like to do in the future, but at the moment I am happy ploughing just for ourselves.

Believe me, when the season is over I'll have had enough of ploughing for one year.

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We are mainly continuous wheat. We wondered this year, when we did our sums, should we be putting in more spring barley? If we get a wet year and we are fighting septoria in the wheat, at the price of the new sprays, are we better off growing spring barley, which we can keep clean for a lot cheaper, to leave us a better margin at the end of the year?

Before we started, we had sent some of our grain off for germination tests. When we got the results of the tests back they were 94-96pc, which is very good. We try to grow a few different wheat varieties. Some suit our ground, like Einstein, Grafton and JB Diego, while some are newer varieties, like KWS Santiago and Invicta.


The price of seed this year is very high. When we looked at new varieties and checked around for prices, we were quoted €480-500/t.

When we did get started, we were sowing winter wheat at 7st/ac. We have also put in winter barley, Cassia, Leibniz (six row) and Florentine, which we were sowing at 10-11st/ac.

The soil samples showed up that it needed lime, so we spread that before we started ploughing.

We also spread 0.7.30, which we had forward bought in June for €400/t. It hasn't changed much since. We are not putting in any oats this year. We look at this every year but, as we still get good yields, we don't want to use a break crop. If our yields change, we will look at this in the future.

The pedestal fans are still working away to keep last year's grain cool in the shed and we regularly check the temperature.

Earlier in September, we sold a little bit more wheat for January at €201/t and some for next November at €181/t.

As the markets are so volatile recently, some brokers won't even quote a price for next year.

Now that we have the shed full of grain and we are ploughing, the mice are on the move so if I can keep them under control for the next couple of weeks, then we won't have a problem for the rest of the year.

I check the bait points regularly and keep them topped up.

Helen Harris farms with her husband, Philip, in Co Kildare. Email:

Indo Farming