Tillage: Ploughing champion saved me from losing the plot in the fields

Paul Ramsbottom rolling after sowing winter wheat for Liam Wall at Ratheniska, Co. Laois. Photo: Alf Harvey/HRPhoto.ie
Paul Ramsbottom rolling after sowing winter wheat for Liam Wall at Ratheniska, Co. Laois. Photo: Alf Harvey/HRPhoto.ie
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Harvest ran very late this year, so when we got going, we had a lot more to do in a lot less time.

Luckily the dry weather really helped, but it did mean long days and nights. If there is a tillage farmer in your house and they are a little crabbier than normal, just give them a break.

We are all very tired and while the weather holds we will keep going. We can sleep in the winter.

Some crops went into really terrific soil conditions. We chopped the straw on some fields, but made sure that all the headlands got this treatment.

It avoids having damp straw being baled on headlands and ensures a little more organic matter where the risk of compaction is greatest. Our only hiccup was that we had the chopper on the wrong setting.

I didn't even know there were settings on the chopper, but we had it on the least aggressive setting.

To make matters worse, crops of straw were very thick.

The problem only materialised when myself and our neighbour Noel Cummins were ploughing - there was awful trouble with the straw catching in the ploughs.

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Noel is a former all Ireland ploughing champion and has extremely high standards, but even he had to swallow his pride.

We moved the discs, we moved the skimmers, before removing them altogether in an effort to bury as much as we could.

I will admit there was some choice words for the plough and the air turned blue.

It if wasn't for Noel I think I would have given up.

In one field I disced it in three different directions in an effort to prepare it for direct drilling, but in the end we still had to plough it. It broke my heart but we got through.

We also had our young neighbour James Taylor come in and help us with the rolling.

This was a great help because it meant if the weather broke we didn't have a lot of ploughed and sown without rolling. The weather held up and we got a lot of acres covered.

The winter wheat varieties we went with this year are JB Diego, Weaver, Lumos, Torp and Lili. We started sowing at 9.5st/ac and as the weeks went on we upped that to 10st/ac.

Spring barley

We had a brilliant crop of Weaver after oilseed rape so we are going to do the same this year. Two varieties that disappointed in our ground last year were Ferrari and Evolution, so we have dropped them.

For winter barley we went with Meridian and Tower. We started them at 12st/ac, and then went up to 13st/ac. We were going to sow more spring barley but as the conditions were so good we decided to keep going, even if it is getting a bit late for winter barley.

It will be very interesting to see the difference between the September and October sown crops. It also means we have only 40ac to go into spring barley.

The oil seed rape (PT234) is up well past ankle height and very strong. So far the pigeons have left it alone but it's early days.

A couple of years ago I was praising the oil seed rape for coming out of winter so well. In February it was a green field and in March it was a bare brown field with hardly a leaf to be seen.

It did come back and recovered well, but it gave me a terrible fright.

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

Next up

We are planning to put a cover crop into the spring barley field for a green manure. Something with an oats mix. However, which one will depend on price. We will spread it with the fertiliser spreader, disc it in and roll it. We also have a huge amount of maintenance on all the harvest and sowing machinery.

The combine is still sitting in the shed waiting to be cleaned down and prepped for storage. As soon as that's all done I'll be looking for a day off because I could be a tiny bit crabby myself.

Indo Farming

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