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Saturday 17 November 2018

Working with four seasons in a day and sowing some Wizard beans to work some magic

 

Winter barley
Winter barley
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Just as the days are getting shorter, we are getting to the end of the sowing.

Most of the tillage fields around the country are brown, with small green plants starting to poke there heads up before the cold weather of winter, puts a halt to their growth.

The very changeable weather is giving us four seasons in a day. We are waking up to frost and then it's getting very warm during the day.

The mild weather and good sowing conditions did make us change some of our sowing decisions. Becauce our spring crops were the worst hit by this year's drought, we have tried to get the winter crops in as early as we could to take advantage of the good ground conditions.

Now that we have them all sown, Phil has decided to change from spring beans to winter beans (Wizard) and take advantage of the continuing good conditions. We have never grown winter beans before so this too will be something different.

We also got everything rolled, stones picked and all the pre-emergence weed spray out.

The varieties we have gone with this year for the winter barley are Cassia, Funky and Carneval. Both Funky and Carneval are new to us, but Cassia has always grown well in our soil type. The winter wheat varieties are, JB Diego, Costello, Graham and Bennington. Graham is the only new one in the winter wheat.

We also put in six trial plots of different winter wheat varieties which will be very interesting to see. They have different seed dressing so it will be interesting to see the difference of the speed of germination. I'll try to have some of these results on Twitter.

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We got the winter oil seed rape sown and it is up and has good strong leaves. We need it to get a central tap root established before the winter. That way if it gets attacked by pigeons and they eat all the leaves over the winter, there is still enough under the ground to get it going again in the spring.

We went with the same variety as last year as it did well considering the drought we had. It is a Pioneer variety called PT 256. We found it that little bit easier to harvest.

We have now got almost the entire farm, bar one spring barley, field in rotation, so this year for the first time, all our wheats are first wheats.

The cover crops are also doing well and have already got a good thick green cover. The mustard is sending down a good strong tap root and the phacelia is up and established. The other cover crop that is in our rotation can't have mustard growing too close to the oil seed rape rotation, for fear of introducing disease, has Vetch instead. Again, it is up and looking good.

The pre-emergence spray was Stomp Aqua at 2.9l per ha and 0.3l of generic Firebird per hectare. This should really help control the grass weeds, especially the sterile brome that we have a problem with, on a couple of headlands.

Having the Topcon Auto steer on the tractor is a great help with spraying before you have tram lines to guide you.

The fields that had oil seed rape in them followed by winter wheat also got monitored for slugs, and when the numbers increased they got Axcela slug pellets at 5kg per ha.

I thought with such a dry summer that slug numbers would be way down. Unfortunately, the slug traps told the true story and in a matter of days the crop was under pressure. We then had to get out with the pellets before too much damage was done.

I do remember being at an ITLUS conference a couple of years ago when they had a speaker from Switzerland talking about slugs. He said that slugs can travel down, 1.5m, into the soil, so both dry weather and hard frost in Ireland, are not severe enough to make that much difference to numbers.

We only use them when we know slugs pose a threat to the crop, but I believe the newer type pellets don't harm the earth worms, which is equally important.

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

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