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Winter barley is looking good despite our 'rocket fuel' gambit


Winter barley

Winter barley

Winter barley

Although the snow drops have made an ­appearance, the daffodils are very slow to show ­themselves. I can't blame them with all the cold ­wintry weather. The crops are showing the signs of stress from the weather too. The fields that got the farm yard manure or ­chicken manure are holding their colour better than others.

We spread dried chicken litter on one of the winter barley fields and ploughed it in. Shortly afterwards, we read an article from Teagasc about putting out "rocket fuel" on winter crops.

We were very nervous that we had made the wrong decision and would it do more harm than good. However, when the crop started to look stressed and hungry a few weeks ago, it turned around in a couple of days. I wonder did the roots reach the ploughed-in manure just at the right time.

It looks good and green but we will be watching it very carefully.

The other field that received the chicken litter, also that had chopped straw ploughed in, was struggling even more. I think the straw was using the manure to break down rather than being available to the plant.

We have been to many farm walks and tillage conferences that encourage us to chop our straw back into the soil.

We have to be careful that we are not overloading the system and asking it to do too much.

The biology needs to be in the ground to help break down the straw. A few weeks later this field of winter barley seemed to green up again. It is very important that they keep as many of the tillers as possible.

We need to get out with fertiliser over the whole farm as soon as the ground allows.

Wheat is more tolerant of stress and nutrient deficiencies. Barley is a different story. Every day that barley is not going forward it's going backwards.

The oil seed rape was planted early and in good conditions and at the moment has a green area index (GAI) of 2.5. It got chicken litter as well, which was ploughed in.

However, the area next to the entrance and on the headland is suffering from compaction. This means we are changing our approach to fertiliser.

The first split where the compaction is obvious, will get double the amount of nitrogen compared with the main crop. We also plan to get the first fungicide out as soon as we can travel.

We had hoped to have the beans in by now, but again the weather has put a stop to that. We have a lot of work backing up so when the weather improves and we can travel, we will have a very busy time ahead. In the mean time we took the opportunity to get yard work and maintenance done. We also got the chemical store cleaned and a stock take done.


We have been hearing for months that TAMS is about to open. We are still waiting. We are trying to see if there is anything that would suit us in the scheme.

We have been talking about direct drills for a long time and had a look at some very impressive machines at the farm machinery show. If we were to go down the road of a direct drill, we would still need to be able to sow on ploughed ground that we have in continuous wheat.

We would also like the option of a dual hopper for fertiliser and seed. Does this mean we would need to keep our one pass or is there a direct drill which can do both jobs well?

We were also looking at rain water harvesting as a great idea, but we don't know what is or isn't included in the scheme, until its announced. It must be very frustrating for both the machinery dealers and the farmers.

The longer it is left the more farmers will hold off buying machinery, so the sooner the better to get it up and running.

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

Indo Farming