'All in all it was a sad end to the tillage year'

Oil-seed Rape crop
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Thank goodness it is all over, well the harvest and sowing at least.

I kept saying that the dull dreary weather couldn't last.

I had been saying that since the end of July, but it just got duller and drearier into autumn and my much wished for Indian summer never materialised.

We really lacked sunshine - even the so called dry days, were so dull and foggy that there was no drying in them at all.

Most of this year's crops and straw were cut in less than ideal conditions. The same can be said about getting next year's crops in. I still saw straw on the ground until very recently.

In a normal year it would have been disked in long ago but it's so precious and scarce that every bit was needed.

We have been hearing of mad prices being paid for straw and any kind of fodder because it is so scarce.

Some of our headlands were drilled in conditions that I can only describe as far from perfect. It was better to get them in the ground than not, but we won't know if we did the right thing till later in the year.

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We also got everything rolled, which again had to be done in far from ideal conditions. Under the wheel tracks are already struggling to come up compared to the main crop.

All in all it was a sad end to the tillage year.

I have heard a number of reports that merchants have been left with a large amount of treated seed left over. Farmers are choosing to wait till spring before trying to sow their crops and hoping for better conditions.

This makes sense as many reports of hectares sown this year are way down on last year.

Even so, I did hear of winter barley being planted in November, which is very late.

I am always giving the merchants a hard time, but this will hit them hard if they can't get the seed sold. It mightn't keep until next year - it will depend on what seed dressing they use and also the moisture levels of the grain.

We are still battling the slugs, but the falling temperatures will slow down their advance.

Oil seed rape

The oil seed rape is still looking patchy and where it has grown, looks very thick at this stage.

I think the P and K going down the spout with the seed really helped it get established.

But where it is thin is going to end up as landing strips for pigeons. If only we could even it out a bit better. The pigeons have enough to eat at the moment but I predict that as soon as other sources of food finish up they will turn to the rape.

As well as an explosion in slugs this year, there has also been a huge increase in the number of mice and rats.

I try and use bait as sparingly as I can, but this year I can't keep the bait boxes filled.

As soon as I have them all filled, within a few days, I have to refill them.

Another, unexpected, job that we find needs doing is cutting up trees.

Ten came down during last month's storms. Some are easy to get to but others are trickier.

It's true what they say about cutting timber - it heats you twice, first chopping it then burning it.

We have plenty to keep us busy for the next few weeks and keep us warm for the next few years.

When we brought in all the machinery this year the biggest difference compared to last year was the amount of muck. Everything has big cloddy lumps on it.

Normally it all comes in with a fine dust on top. It couldn't be more different this year.

I ended up power- washing a lot of units so we wouldn't be bringing all the dirt into the sheds.

Meanwhile, the machinery maintenance and paperwork will also keep us busy over the winter months.

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

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