Farm Ireland

Thursday 25 April 2019

Ploughing in poor conditions could lead to trouble later in the season

Proper plough set up leads to better crop yields and less fuel consumption.
Proper plough set up leads to better crop yields and less fuel consumption.
Prince Charles pictured during a visit to Louth Livestock Market in Lincolnshire for the launch of the Farm Resilience Programme which offers free business skills family workshops aimed at family livestock and farm businesses. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

It has been a difficult few weeks and not very suitable for field work with the result that very little spring work is done.

Last week machinery could be seen moving particularly spreading fertiliser on winter crops.

Some ploughing was also proceeding but in some cases ground conditions were poor and the turned sod, in these cases, will only lead to more grief next harvest.

While I can understand the need to get work done, ploughing in poor conditions cannot be condoned.

It is best, for many reasons, to delay work until such time as ground conditions permit. Crops (and the bank manager)will thank you for this next harvest. Fallow remains an option particularly for difficult land this year.

At this stage priority should be to try and get some crops sown when conditions permit with the order of preference given to beans and spring wheat.

While it would be preferable to have beans sown at this stage, early April sowing will be a necessity.

Aim to establish 35 plants per square metre ie 175-210kg/ha for 450g-550g TGW (11-13st/ac). It appears that all stocks of beans will be sold out and therefore a possible greater demand from compounders next autumn. Try to sow with a contract.

Also Read

Weed control must be pre emerge with Nirvana or Stallion now likely the products of choice.

Lingo is in its "use up" phase. Centium (Clomazone) will most likely only be used in mixtures as it is poor on fumitory, poppy, pansy, redshank and hemp nettle but very good on cleavers and red dead nettle.

If fertility levels are low apply a compound such as 0-7-30 or 0-10-20 as close as possible to the seed. Avoid land with a low pH.

Wheat, barley and oats should be drilled at 350-400 seeds/M2. Seed rates will vary depending on TGW and sowing conditions.


Considering the potential late season and likely high costs involved in establishing crops this spring triticale is worth considering.

This is a cross between wheat and rye. Interest is increasing in the crop. It combines a potential high yield with the favourable characteristics of rye such as increased pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance and has particular adaptability to marginal land.

While the KPH (thousand grain weight) is significantly lower than quality wheat the agronomy for the crop is simple, and relative to wheat costs are lower especially in relation to fertiliser and fungicides.

Extra care may be needed to keep crops standing as these tend to be very tall and yellow rust can be a major issue in some seasons and in some locations.

The crop is often used as a whole crop and the cost per tonne of dry matter (DM) is very competitive especially when compared to grass silage. It can give high DM yields (12t/ha) and has a high starch content (30 to 35pc). It can be fertilised similar to wheat crops however N levels should be reduced by 20 to 25pc.

Split N will help to reduce the risk of lodging. Varieties available are Bienvenu, a true spring variety with good standing ability and excellent disease resistance or Orval which is a winter variety.

Nitrogen and winter crops

Some winter barleys have turned very yellow over the last week. Plant counts are generally good.

Those crops which received organic fertiliser last back end have retained their colour better. At this stage 35-45pc of the planned N (60 to 80 kgs N/ha) could be applied now to winter barley crops with similar rates for winter wheat and oats.

Remember to allow for higher yields and use higher rates in take-all risk situations. Winter oil seed rape will need its full complement of Nitrogen (up to 225kgs/ha) relatively quickly as once growth starts this crop will go through the stages very quickly.

Include sulphur (35-40kg/ha) with the main split. Applications should be based on the green area index (GAI). Where the GAI is 2 plus at this stage overall usage may be significantly reduced.

Boron is also an essential trace element and can be applied with a fungicide, preferably one giving some growth regulation such as Caramba, Prosaro or Magnello. Apply when the green buds start to appear above the leaves.

In relation to pesticides for cereals, the focus should be on crops not sprayed for weeds as once the crop starts to grow weeds will also start to take off.

There are a range of products available for wheat and the use of Alister Flex or Broadway Star will give good control of a reasonable broad spectrum of weeds including wild oats and brome. Broadway Star is not suitable for situations where annual meadow grass is present.

Winter barley crops are trickier particularly if grass is present however some of the winter herbicides including DFF, Stomp Tower combinations can still be used depending on weeds present.

The time will quickly come to consider a T0 or even a T1 on winter barley and wheat. This will be covered by my colleagues over the next few weeks.

Finally, a reminder that while there is a lot of work to be done in a very short period of time the most important aspect to be aware of is health and safety.

Don't take chances and if work has to be completed in a hurry try to ensure that help is at hand to ensure that minimum risks are taken.

Pat Minnock is a Carlow based agricultural consultant and a member of the ACA and the ITCA.

For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App

Indo Farming