A new year and fresh hopes for another reasonable one. I was delighted to hear that many farmers had had a good year last year and that they were looking forward to the next 12 months.
Tillage farmers tend to be positive. Prices are helping to drive this, with spot wheat making up to €240/t last week. Future prices for wheat of up to €230 for this November are obtainable. Local merchants were offering €175/t for green barley at 20pc moisture. Oilseed rape future prices of up to €450/t are also available. At these prices, growers would be well advised to lock in some of their expected harvest.
While this is not a great time for field work, I was surprised last week when I saw ploughing taking place -- and ground actually ploughing up well. Granted, this was on light soils in Wexford but it goes to show how the year moves on and the need to be prepared for when the time is right.
A major worry for farmers now is the likely high price of fertiliser. However, I believe the worst has passed. For example, €310 was touted as the most likely price for 27pc CAN last November. Offers are currently doing the rounds at €305 and the comment 'come back to me before you do anything' would indicate to me that good deals can be done. Shop around has to be the best advice at the moment.
With high fertiliser prices, organic fertiliser must be considered. There are many types of organic fertilisers that can be considered. The most widely used organic fertilisers are those created by the farm animals themselves and used on the farm. The limiting factor for these farm-produced manures is the limit of 170kg of organic nitrogen per hectare. What may not be obvious is that organic fertilisers that are not generated by farm animals are not subject to this limit. Their application is limited only by the amount of inorganic fertiliser they can replace (subject to nitrates directives limits). There is an ever-increasing source of these fertilisers as more and more environmental controls are implemented. This includes food waste compost, animal by product compost, treated waste water, factory process washings, septic tank sludge, food manufacturing waste and so on. Each of these products contains nitrogen and phosphorous which can be used to replace some or all of the chemical fertiliser used on the farm. Often the cost of the nutrient supplied by these organic fertilisers when compared to bagged fertiliser is considerably cheaper and can save €25-90/ac depending on the fertility status of the soil and the crop to be grown. This is a potential saving of up to €9,000 on a 100ac farm.
With the Water Framework Directive about to be implemented and the carbon audits on farms likely to be a feature this year, now is the time to look to the future and make decisions that will influence the future carbon balance of your farm.
This time of year is when it is good to consider the planting of willow. Willow will improve water quality, improve biodiversity and habitats and create a new carbon store. They can also create an option to provide fuel for the farm and increase the sustainability and profitability of your farm.
All farmers should consider buffer strips or riparian zones for planting willow. Every farm has some area that is suitable for consideration for willow plantation and acting now gives you a lead-in period to when the Water Framework Directive comes into play.
This needs to be considered immediately, particularly as the closing date for willow grant applications is a week tomorrow. Contact your local Agricultural Consultant for help (www.aca.ie).
Pat Minnock is the president of the ACA and a member of the ITCA. Email: email@example.com Thanks to John Byrne, Tinahely, for help with this article. www.jbabc.ie