Farm Ireland

Monday 26 February 2018

Tillage: Going against the grain with new crops

The arrival of swallows has been later this year.
The arrival of swallows has been later this year.
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Our swallows were slow to arrive this year but the starlings are making up for them. Every corner I walk around, I can hear the little starling chicks calling out for food from their parents. They are nesting in every gap and hole in the yard.

As you walk past one and they start screeching, it seems to set off the others and soon you have the whole yard screeching.

As well as the little starlings being very busy, so are we.

We did some more drainage in a very wet field and filled in a large dip in the field with top soil. It was always very wet because it is in the shape of a saucer.

Every drain around the field seemed to be slightly higher, and no matter how good we are, we can't get water to flow uphill. Phil took measurements in every direction and realised that he may be able to get it to flow away in just one spot.

Himself and a neighbour put in the drain. They also put in a big six-inch pipe to divert another drain and it worked.

Phil was so surprised at the amount of water that got away that he convinced himself that this field would be good enough to sow.


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With the price of grain on the floor, what should go in?

We looked at cover crops but they were just too dear for having no crop to harvest.

The decision was made that spring oil seed rape was what we were going to grow. This is the second crop this year that we have never grown before, as we have never grown beans before either.

We went with an oil seed rape variety called Doktrin and sowed it at one bag 10.04 kg for 7.5 acres. This works out to 70 seeds per square metre. It also got four bags of 10.7.25 + 2S per acre.

The top soil is very poor in this field and is only about four inches deep so instead of taking the risk of ploughing up subsoil, we min tilled it in.

This is the first year in a long time that we have no spring barley. We also have two other fields that we have left idle, as they are even wetter.

It will be very interesting to see if we can make some money on the field we drained and not just break even. The two idle fields could still work out more profitable.

The last of the nitrogen went out on all the other crops. Winter wheat is now at 180 units and winter barley is at 153 units.

Last year, to comply with the three-crop rule, we had to put three crops in one field we share farm, winter wheat, winter barley and spring barley. The winter barley was a six-row variety (Meridian) and it yielded very well, but this year the whole field is back in winter wheat.

It was very obvious, for the whole winter, where the winter barley was last year as the difference of size and colour was very dramatic. It was much shorter and much paler.

This just shows that we have to replace what we take off. If the ground is lacking in nutrition because we took off a good crop last year, then we need to compensate for that this year and give a little extra, which we did.

Now it has caught up with the main crop and you can't tell them apart. We have started our spray programme. The winter wheat, got fungicides of Adexir at 1.6 l/ha, Bravo at 1l/ha. The growth regulators were CeCeCe at .5 l/ha and Freeze at .15 l/ha.

The winter barley got a growth regulator and a wild oats spray. With the low temperatures for so long, we went with Ceraide at 1.25l/ha and Avena at .25 l/ha with a sticker.

The oil seed rape got Presaro at 1 l/Ha just before flowering. It also got 3kg pack per four ha of Wolf Trax Boron.

It is in full bloom with the fields bright yellow.

Which looks great but having to drive through it to get to the yard and house means anyone with hay fever will be avoiding us for the next few weeks.

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

My week ahead

We are thinking about using a liquid fertiliser on two fields of continuous winter wheat. Again this is something we don't normally do, so we are dividing a field in half and using normal foliar fertiliser on one side and liquid on the other. Then, see if there is any yield benefit. We also have a busy spray programme ahead and we have to finish loading out last year's crop.

Indo Farming