Tillage advice: Change in the weather gives us a pause for thought
The wet and sometimes frosty weather of the past few weeks has slowed field work, which, in my opinion, is a good thing.
It is still too early to sow crops and also still too early to top dress winter cereals. If weather conditions improve and soil conditions allow, sowing could commence before the end of the month.
The first crop to be considered for sowing should be spring beans. Given the type of weather we have had over the winter, it is reasonable to assume that there is still some winter left.
The last few sowing seasons have varied and even where the season was relatively late, once crops got away to a good start, yields were still good. We have also all seen situations where crops were sown early in wet and cold soils and, even after emergence, struggled to get going and did not yield.
Nevertheless, given the time required for maturity, beans should be planted towards the end of February or early March. Sowing should be into good, firm, dry seed beds. Spring wheat might also be sown at this time, but hold off for good soil conditions so crops can establish quickly. Spring barley sown prior to March 17 rarely performs well, unless weather conditions remain good after sowing, and in many cases can suffer from delayed emergence and many pest problems.
Very early sowing does not always lead to higher returns and is a bigger gamble and can be costlier.
Medium to heavy soils with a pH of 6.5 to 7 are most suitable for beans. Beans will not perform well in acidic conditions. It is important that the P index is reasonably high - a minimum of index 3; if lower than this, placement of P is essential. Trace elements such as magnesium, zinc, manganese and sulphur are vital if this crop is to perform well. The optimum plant density for beans is 25 to 35 plants per square metre. Crops should be planted to a depth of 100cm to 125cm (4in to 5in).
The bean acreage will likely reach if not exceed the target of 12,000 hectares, at which stage the protein payment will start to reduce.