Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Tillage: US trip left me with plenty of food for thought

Joe Patton talks about silage at Beef 2016 in Teagasc Grange, Dunsany last Tuesday. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Joe Patton talks about silage at Beef 2016 in Teagasc Grange, Dunsany last Tuesday. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Most people go away at this time of year to recharge the batteries before harvest, but we have only just recovered from an incredible farm trip to mid-west USA with Irish Tillage and Land Use Society (ITLUS).

I have mentioned before what a terrific organisation ITLUS is, but when you go on trips like that, you realise what a privilege it is, to see farms that most people will never get the chance to tour.

We chatted on the bus about farming for hours and hours. I think we covered just shy of three thousand miles. I slept for over 17 hours straight when I got home. Many of our neighbours went to the Cereals event in England so we will have a lot to discuss about the future of tillage farming. The only talking point at the moment is the very low prices of corn. The fall in sterling isn't helping our cause either.

The crops had changed a lot in the time we were away. The spring oil seed rape is now in bloom and the winter barley is changing colour fast. The six row started to come in faster than the two row, I hope the dull wet weather in the last few weeks hasn't had too much negative effect on the grain fill.

The winter oil seed rape is knitting together and will be difficult to get through when we need to spray it off. The area that got most of the pigeon damage definitely has weaker stems and is already showing signs of falling over. It wouldn't take a lot to knock it down so we need to avoid heavy rain and wind till harvest. It will be interesting to see if the pigeon damage turns into a loss of yield.

The beans have gotten Signum at .7l/ha as its fungicide, followed by phosphite and sulphur for trace elements. We are monitoring them closely for aphids but so far that hasn't been a problem.

The pods are already on the plant and because we haven't grown beans before we are constantly checking to make sure they are okay.

There were a few plants with chocolate spot but in general the crop is looking quite clean with warm damp weather this could change very quickly.

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We are also walking through the crops checking for weeds. In previous years we sprayed off the sterile brome at the headlands but because it killed the other grasses as well, it then had no one to compete with when it grew back. This resulted in us having more sterile brome rather than less.

For the last few years we have been trying to rotate crops to control the problem. This is something I think we will need to do more of in the future.

If we do decide to put in cover crops in our rotation we need to make sure it doesn't effect the other crops in the rotation.

For example, we need to be careful if we go with another brassica when we have oil seed rape in the rotation.

This could increase the disease pressure as the gap between the similar crops is too short.

In one or two bad headlands we are thinking of putting a three metre strip of grass for three years to try and get on top of the sterile brome.

The winter wheat is starting to sway and it won't be too far behind the barley in changing colour.

This too may suffer from yield loss with the weather being so dull during grain fill in June and July.

The optimist in me is saying that if we are having poor weather now it may mean that we will get a good spell for harvest.

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

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