Why this tillage farmer forward selling looks a risky option

Amy Bermingham and Julie Maher from the UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre, Waterford pictured on Adam Green's farm in Portlaw, Co. Waterford ahead of national Daffodil Day on Friday in aid of the Irish Cancer Society. Photo: Patrick Browne
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

During the bad weather and storms last autumn, many farmers had to abandon their cropping plans. The changing weather meant very difficult ground conditions. The same is now happening this spring.

The cold wet weather has meant very little ground work has been done.

We are still hoping to have our beans in before the end of the month.

We used to set St Patrick's Day for the end of the bean sowing.

Now it's the end of the month. Would you risk pushing that into April if we can't get out before then? Or change crop and put in spring barley and lose the rotation benefit and protein payment?

There is also the worry if you forward sell a crop and then end up where you can't get the crop in or it fails because of the bad conditions, you are left with the contract to fulfil.

The soil is still cold and still saturated in some places.

It is difficult to believe that we are this far into spring.

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We also have spring barley and spring oilseed rape to sow. We may have to look at different varieties to see if there are ones more suitable for these conditions.

The one thing we did get to do last autumn, after the crops were cut, was to go out with organic manures.

In our case it was chicken litter. This is now really showing huge benefits, as we haven't been able to get out to spread much compound. With the organic manures, the crops have slow release nutrients already in the ground.

This meant that crops did survive the winter quite well.

The oilseed rape was very flat on the ground after all the snow and it has perked up. The chicken litter has really helped keep it green. The winter wheat was planted late, in less than ideal conditions and is still a bit thin.

Winter barley

I think we lost a few more plants during the harsh winter. If we can get the fertiliser out and get it to push on, it's probably not too late to make up for the plant loss. The winter barley got P and K as well as chicken litter in the autumn.

Before the snow we went back out with three bags to the acre of 13.6.20 and 4 Sulphur. This is really obvious now. It is much greener than most barley crops, but I do wonder how much we have lost with the snow and rain.

In a couple of weeks we will do a leaf analysis to try to determine what we might have lost due to the wet weather.

This will help make the decisions regarding the next compound we need to use.

Fertiliser is too expensive to lose, so it's important to know what the plant has taken up, as well as what it needs.

There is an old saying that every day that barley is not going forward, it is going backwards.

If the barley has already set the grain sites in the head are we too late pushing it on with fertiliser now?

We also put out Wolf Trax Manganese to help the barley plants tiller. As the PH of our soils is quite high, this can prohibit tillering and manganese may help over come this problem.

As soon as we can travel, we will give the oilseed rape two bags of ASN per acre as it will have a huge growth spurt in the next few weeks.

The original plan was to go out on the headland only and spread around the field where the pions have done the most damage. The next move is to go back a week later when the headland has a chance to catch up and do the entire field with ASN.

We took oilseed rape leaf samples and put them in a plastic bag in the hot press to see if light leaf spot is present.

The crop is very clean but this is something that we will watch and keep monitoring.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

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