Cover crop specifications will create major problems for growers
The likely late harvest will again delay the establishment of cover crops. Up to September 15 farmers will sow 20,000ha of catch crops for GLAS purposes.
Unfortunately, the Department of Agriculture specifications are unyielding and dictate management which is not always in the best interest of growers particularly from a pest and disease point of view.
There is no doubt that some of the specifications foisted on growers will lead to major problems over the coming years.
As a group, the Irish Tillage Consultants Association (ITCA) have sought changes to these specifications.
For example, DEFRA (UK) funded research indicates, as a general rule, once a third to half ground cover is achieved there is a substantial reduction in Nitrates run off and erosion risks.
In our opinion DAFM recommended seeding rates are way too high. Seeding rates should be determined by the cover crop species/ variety, weather, soil and seed bed conditions and especially the seeding date.
The high inclusion rates demanded by the Dept of Agriculture for cover crops for GLAS, regardless of seeding dates, are not necessary and can be detrimental in the long run for both establishment and management of the crops themselves and the subsequent cropping programmes.
For example, the GLAS minimum rate of 8kg per hectare for a mix of leafy turnip and fodder rape is much higher than required especially when you consider recommended oilseed rape sowing rates of approximately 2kg in late August.