How maps in the tractor can help solve problems in the future

Stock image
Stock image

Michael Hennessy

As farms become bigger it's more difficult to keep track of all the different land parcels, and even more difficult to keep track of changes/interventions needed within fields. A useful method to solve this is to utilise the map of your farm (Area Aid maps) to record specific field information which will help you remember to carry out necessary operations in the field.

While driving down the field completing a crop operation such as spreading fertiliser, ploughing or spraying you often find yourself comparing one part of the field to another and by the time you come back up the next tramline, or pass through the field, you have a theory about why the difference is there.

The chances are, if there wasn't a phone call to interrupt your train of thought, you'd have resolved to do something about it.

The action could be to come back in a few days and investigate further or perhaps to apply some farmyard manure or perhaps take a soil sample. "Job done you thought to yourself, I have a plan".

If you are like the rest of us there is a strong possibility you reminded yourself the next time you were in the field to do that job and maybe you also had to remind yourself the next time you were in the field.

Until you eventually forgot about what the problem was in the first place.

Perhaps until you observe it the next year and the process starts all over again.

So how can you ensure these jobs are completed?

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Many tools can be used but using Area Aid (or BPS ) maps of the field can be one of the best and most visual.

So how can any farmer utilise these maps?

Within your office or where ever you store all your BPS (or Area Aid) applications the chance are you have multiple maps for each field.

Get one of these maps for each field and put them together into a folder. This should be in the main tractor in the farm, especially the tractor spreading fertiliser and spraying.

When in the field and you spot something worth recording, such as a poor area, a patch of weeds, etc. roughly draw out the patch on the map.

This map can be used for a number of years building up a picture of areas where actions are needed. It is then easy to review all the maps later in the year and make a solid plan of action. The map shows a number of areas which the farmer needs to take action on.

This is particularly relevant this time of the year when considering grass weeds. There is no substitute to walking fields, pulling and identifying grasses and mapping specific areas where actions are needed each year .

Grass weeds

The renowned British grass weed researcher, Dr Sarah Cook, recently passed a comment which resonated strongly with me.

"Persistent weeds on your farm are the weeds you have farmed and are your responsibility," she said.

Weeds naturally spread locally but can be transported over a wider area by machinery, seed, feed and even by birds. However, once in your field the weed spread happens within that field.

In all cases, the spread happens from a small area or from a small number of plants - unless sown seed used was uniformly contaminated.

Therefore, being able to recognise these weeds and furthermore identify or mark out these areas for further action is all important.

There is no other method of finding out if you have weeds and what weed it is (especially when you think you have no grass weeds) other than walking the crop.

Having a look from the tractor cab as you are spraying or fertiliser spreading is not a substitute to walking the field.

If you spot a grass weed head over the top of the crop and you don't know what it is, pull it and get it identified.

There are a number of grass weeds which are more problematic than others. Pay particular attention to blackgrass, canary grass, wild oats and bromes.

This is where mapping can be particularly useful.

Where a patch of weeds is discovered on the farm, and hopefully the weeds rogued from the patch, the area should be recorded as you will want to go back to complete the job or to hand rouge again in the next crop.

It's often the case that farmers can forget to apply a herbicide to this area especially when a break crop is used.

Even more importantly recording this area and the herbicide used will give you an idea if the grass weed is resistant to the herbicide or not.

Herbicide resistance is becoming a problem in all of the grasses mentioned so far.

If you are worried about grass weed resistance Teagasc have a grass weed programme called the ECT project which wants to hear from you and more importantly the project team can test your seeds for resistance.

In order to do so you need to collect mature seeds from the weeds and send them into us in Teagasc Oak Park.

The process is simple, all we need is two cups of weed seeds, place them in a paper envelope and leave them to dry out and send them to the ECT team or your local Teagasc advisor.

If you are interested in knowing if your weeds are resistant to herbicides please contact Jimmy Staples on 087 7907758 or send Jimmy an email to

Herbicide resistance is becoming a problem in grass weeds

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