Tillage: Time to tend the machines as rain puts halt to spraying

Oil-seed Rape crop
Oil-seed Rape crop
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

It is now time to turn our attention to our machinery after a hard season's work. Unfortunately, the heavy rainfall of recent days beat us to the finishing line on the spraying and we hadn't got it all completed before the deluge descended.

Although the temperature hasn't dropped much the amount of rain that has fallen made all work in the fields virtually impossible. We sprayed both the winter wheat and winter barley with Flight at 3l/ha for broad leaf weeds and IPU for grass weeds. We also used an aphicide to help prevent BYDV (barley yellow dwarf virus).

The oil seed rape has a weed in it, actually it has three weed types, all related to the oil seed rape plant. They are charlock, hedge mustard and another wild mustard. They are in flower at the moment which makes it very easy to spot with their bright yellow heads.

But because they are cousins of the rape it makes it particularly difficult to spray as there is a risk of damaging the growing crop.

We had our relations over from Australia and when they very politely asked is there anything they could do to help during their stay, they hadn't envisaged me saying, that I'd be delighted if they would hand pull every rogue weed out of the rape.

They got a 20ac field finished before they got washed out in a heavy shower. Now they are the type of visitors that are more than welcome.

As the first small leaves of all the crops start peeping up they are very vulnerable to diseases and pests. Most fungicides work better as a preventative rather than curative.

With this in mind we are keeping a close eye on the oil seed rape for light leaf spot. To help us catch this before it develops in the main crop we have put a few leaves in a clear plastic bag in the hot press.

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This will accelerate the growth of any spores and if present it will look like salt grains on the leaf. So far we have no symptoms but if it does develop we will go out with Proline .5l/ha to catch it as quick as we can.

When we finished the harvest and sowing we made a list of all the problems with the machinery that need to be fixed over the winter. I'm always surprised at just how quickly I can forget what needs to be done when you are not using the machine every day.

Spare parts

Usually when you start you then spot even more that needs doing. After a few phone calls I compare prices and quality as the prices of spare parts can vary wildly, so it is worth ringing around.

We also try and get all our finances in order. This year we sold more green grain than normal which has a positive effect on our cash flow which is normally very tight at this time of year.

We were trying to forward purchase fertiliser so as we don't have to pay it all in the spring and may get some good value.

So far, there is no benefit or value out there to buy at this time of year. It's very disappointing that the merchants aren't as quick to offer forward buying when it seems like a win-win because farmers have been paid. We also need to look at our banking needs and whether or not we need to change our overdraft limit and so on. I've always found this time of year is good to sit down and make a plan.

Although it can be a very dangerous thing to do with Philip Harris as he thinks that it's his time of the year to start looking at new toys he would like to put on his list for Santa.

He mustn't be alone as this is machinery show time, with reports leaking back of the new displays at Agritechnica in Germany. The last time it was on Phil ventured across the waters.

However, he gave it a skip this year but he received loads of photos of huge machines from the lads that did go, just to make him jealous.

I do wonder whether half of these machines would work in Ireland with the sheer size of them.

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

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