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Saturday 18 August 2018

There's 'crazy money' on offer for land leases but proceed with extreme caution

While many crops held up remarkable well considering the weather, quality was affected over the last two weeks with wheat showing significant sprouting and barley breaking down. Stock Image
While many crops held up remarkable well considering the weather, quality was affected over the last two weeks with wheat showing significant sprouting and barley breaking down. Stock Image
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

The end of a difficult harvest is finally coming into view. Many farmers in the drier areas of the country would rate it as an early harvest, but elsewhere there are those who continue to struggle.

This is particularly the case for those farmers with late crops such as spring rape, spring wheat or beans.

In the western and northern parts of the country harvesting of all cereals was a major struggle with up to 10pc still to be completed.

While many crops held up remarkable well considering the weather, quality was affected over the last two weeks with wheat showing significant sprouting and barley breaking down.

Yields appear to have held up reasonably well in most cereals and much of the spring barley crop was pleasantly surprising.

Prices continue to disappoint with the result that returns from tillage are once again under pressure. As a result, many growers may now be considering their future in tillage.

With milk prices flying, dairy farmers have got another lease of life and many are again offering crazy money for land rental.

While some might be able to justify this money in their own mind, lessors should proceed with caution.

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All implications must be considered, particularly the ability of the leasee to make annual payments.

There is a major tax concession to long term leasing but once the decision is made to lease land it is difficult to get out of it later.

WINTER BARLEY

Of all the cereal crop yields this harvest, it appears that winter barley suffered the biggest yield drop from previous years.

This is probably more to do with the good returns achieved in 2015 and 2016 rather than the poorer yields of 2017 but it does emphasise the necessity to plant winter barley in good rotations, with good seed bed conditions and with top management.

It is likely that winter barley planting may drop somewhat. But because of the three-crop rule and the better harvest weather, this crop will still make up a significant portion of a farmers' tillage area.

One of the many lessons from 2017 should be that very early sown crops do not always perform, mainly because of the threat from Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV).

Many will be considering planting winter barley from now on and while, on certain soils, this can be achieved with good results, in many areas it is best to wait for another week or two before sowing.

All barley should be treated with Redigo Deter for aphid control to lessen the impact of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus.

This will cost approximately €15 per hectare. Latitude should also be considered for crops to be sown in take-all situations. This will cost approximately €20-€30 per tonne depending on rate used.

The debate still rages about hybrid versus conventional barley. 2017 gave variable results in this regard but as a general rule hybrid barley appears to have bettered conventional barleys in many cases and with better quality grain now being produced by the new varieties, KPH is not the issue it was previously.

Grass weeds

In recent seasons there have been greater difficulties with grass weeds, particularly sterile brome. Black grass is now also appearing in more places than heretofore.

For effective grass weed control, the use of rotation, stale seed beds and chemistry is vital. A new concept in this area is variety choice with indications of some varieties having an effect on black grass control.

Steps to combat black grass include: a combination of shallow cultivation, delayed drilling, seed rates, varieties and finally the use of an appropriate herbicide. For hybrids the correct seeding rate is around 200 seeds per metre squared. Early Nitrogen (growth stage 25) and early growth regulator (growth stage 30) is essential. Typical varieties available this autumn will be Quadra, Bazooka, Belfry and Volume. The conventional varieties available will be Kosmos (6 row), Infinity and Tower, both 2 row varieties.

Winter Oil Seed Rape

It is now too late to plant oil seed rape and although some will still be tempted, the weather over the next few weeks will determine outcomes. It is possible to achieve results with late sown rape but this is a bigger gamble particularly with pigeon damage if crops do not establish quickly.

Winter beans

These have performed reasonably well this year with yields of two to three tonnes per acre being obtained. They have the distinct advantage of being at least three weeks earlier to cut than spring sown crops. They are worth considering in a rotation as the following crop can benefit by up to 1 tonne per acre. Sowing should be delayed until November.

Cover Crops

The period for sowing of cover crops for GLAS has been extended to the end of September however the value from sowing late cover crops is very questionable and is now only recommended to satisfy the undertakings for GLAS unless leaving in situ until the spring.

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


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