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Andrew Bergin: How I aim to get the same yields with less applied Nitrogen

I’m planning to use liquid UAN with humic acid and seaweed on my wheat and oats for the first time this year, to help uptake and reduce the risk of leaching

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Sow far, sow good: Keith Dowling planting Planet C1 spring barley on his farm at Castletown, Co. Kildare. Photo: Damien Eagers

Sow far, sow good: Keith Dowling planting Planet C1 spring barley on his farm at Castletown, Co. Kildare. Photo: Damien Eagers

Sow far, sow good: Keith Dowling planting Planet C1 spring barley on his farm at Castletown, Co. Kildare. Photo: Damien Eagers

It’s been a long winter so it’s good to get working in the fields again. Overwintered covers were sprayed off a couple of weeks ago. Glyphosate was used at 900g per hectare, with 1 litre per hectare of fulvic acid.

The fulvic acid is said to improve penetration into the plant and also to speed the breakdown of glyphosate in the soil. It seems to give the same results with lower rates of glyphosate, so it more than pays for itself.

I use rainwater for spraying wherever possible, and availability has not been a big challenge recently. Water from wells or mains often contains minerals that can bind in the tank to products being applied and reduce their availability to plants.

February 23 was just about the wettest day of the year so far here, with 17.5mm of rain. The next fortnight saw little or no rain, even if drying was not great.

Apart from one field with springs in it, land dried well, and by March 5, some was fit to sow.

Early March sowing is grand in theory but does not always work out. The month can turn wet and cold and be tough on emerging crops.

March 2013 stands out for me, as I sowed a lot of barley early on and watched the leatherjackets get fat on it for the rest of the month.

 

Poor vigour

Poor vigour in seed that year following a very wet harvest was some of the problem, and last August saw 18 wet days here, along with two storms.

This leaves me a bit wary of sowing too early.

I usually place liquid starter fertiliser with spring seed, and this can give it quite a boost, but I was getting a hole in the fertiliser tank fixed last week and this was another reason not to be too ambitious.

Half of the planned spring barley was sown here on March 5 and 6. Conditions were lovely and it was direct drilled at 175kg per hectare and rolled afterwards.

Some of the rest of the ground, while not quite as dry, could probably have been sown but will be done instead when it dries up again.

The tank is now fixed so this will also get 100 litres per hectare of 7:8:1 as well as a couple of litres of seaweed extract. Crops will get most of their potash and sulphur from 200kg per hectare of polysulphate.

Wheat and oats have wintered well and got magnesium sulphate, boron and seaweed extract last week.

First nitrogen will go on soon, and the plan is to use liquid UAN with humic acid and maybe some more seaweed. The additives are to help uptake into the plants and reduce the risk of leaching.

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It’s my first time to try this and the aim is to produce the same yields with less applied nitrogen. These jobs should fit in just before ground is dry enough to sow again.

Andrew Bergin is a tillage farmer based near Athy, Co Kildare


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