Why this farmer has joined a new farming organisation
Although this is a quiet time of the year on the farm, there is a busy schedule of tillage conferences and seminars nationwide.
We have been to a few and I always find them to be very informative. It might be a comment from someone sitting beside me or something important from a speaker. Either way, I like to go with an open mind and I always get something to think about on the way home.
The Irish Grain Growers group held one such meeting and we went along. This is a relatively new group that wants to represent Irish grain growers.
After looking at returns over the past few years I do think that this type of group is badly needed as an individual group targeting one area may be able to concentrate solely on delivering a high price for good quality grain and straw.
The only reason straw has gone up in price is the scarcity of it.
Anyway, we went down to the meeting and listened to all the speakers talk about various tillage issues, including getting the beet industry going again and getting a better price for malting barley.
But the single biggest thing I took away from the meeting was the positivity. When I heard every speaker talk positively about the future of tillage farming, it would lift your heart.
We have had a few lousy years of grain prices, but it didn't deter this group.
They believe that there is strength in numbers and they need to get more members to be able to have the strength to seriously lobby on our behalf.
However, I don't think the revival of the beet industry will happen in the next couple of years.
Just look at the painstaking process Apple undertook in seeking planning permission for a data centre in Athenry. Two years down the line there still isn't a block laid thanks to our unbelievably slow planning system and it now looks uncertain.
But I do think the beet industry has a future in Ireland and having another market, for another crop, can only be a good thing.
I wish this group the best of luck in the future and did I put my hand in my pocket for the €50 joining fee? I most certainly did.
It's early days for them and I do think it will be a serious challenge to try and lobby on behalf of a small but very important group of growers. But I appreciate all they are trying to do for our industry.
Last year I did an experiment called 'soiling your underpants' where I buried three pairs of cotton underpants in three different fields to see the biological activity in the soil.
Our two cute little Rottweilers decided to help by digging up two of them very soon afterwards, but the third stayed in the ground for four months.
When I dug them up, I realised they weren't 100pc cotton, as what was left, had the same texture as ladies tights. Then I realised, this was elastane and that the 97pc cotton had completely broken down. But what I was left with was a very light mesh of elastane.
It was good to see the cotton had disappeared, but I would have liked the three results to compare, if there was any difference between the fields. They had been chosen because one had been ploughed, one min till and the third had organic manures on it. The one that was left was the min till field and even as I was digging the underpants out I could find a huge amount of worms.
I may try and repeat the experiment this year and make sure the underpants are 100pc cotton, and keep the dogs away. We will also be taking all our soil samples in the next few weeks.
We were trying to rotate it around the farm so we don't end up doing them all the same year. Now that they are only valid for four and not five years, we need to do the whole farm.
This may seem like an expensive exercise but with the price of fertiliser taking a shocking hike, we only want to put out exactly what we need.
Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer
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