Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Time to face the dreaded paperwork for pesticide and fertiliser records

Patrick J Phelan

Most farmers do not like paperwork and find that there is always something more urgent to do. If that is your approach you're OK, provided that you get someone to do it for you. If you do it yourself, then there is no better time than now to start at it given the poor weather and soil conditions.

You must ensure that your:

  • Pesticide records 2010 are completed;
  • Fertiliser application records 2010 are completed.

You should also take the time to review your soil results and prepare your fertiliser programme for 2011. The revised nitrogen allowances for winter wheat and malting barley, announced recently by the Department of Agriculture, are most welcome and are more realistic to meet crop requirements.

From an environmental perspective, I find it difficult to comprehend why lands with high yield potential should be restricted when in other areas of the world, land, which in some instances is of marginal quality, is being reclaimed for crop production.

The other welcome development has been the removal of the requirement to classify land which had received dressings of organic fertiliser as Index 2 for nitrogen. It recognises the value of organic matter and sends a strong signal that organic matter is a valuable resource.

The depletion of soil phosphorus levels will be alleviated by increased phosphorus allowances and applications where yields exceed 6.5t/ha. This revision of the regulations is in recognition of the fact that the previous allocation was not adequate for high yielding crops.

Pesticide records 2010

Pesticide records are very easy to finalise if you have kept a diary of field applications during the year. If your record-keeping was poor there is a considerable amount of work involved. It is important that the correct PCS (pesticide control service) number is recorded for all products.

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Do not be tempted to copy PCS numbers from last year's records to this year as some have changed. Likewise, if uncertain as to the application of any particular product, do not guess, as product usage rates and permissions for different crops vary. If your records are inadequate, go back to your supplier or adviser to find where the product was recommended for and/or check with your contractor.

Fertiliser records 2010

Your fertiliser records must show the date, rate and type of fertiliser or slurry applied to each field that you were farming in 2010. If you followed your fertiliser plan closely it is easy to complete. However, if you substituted the fertiliser that was available on the day from your merchant for the planned fertiliser you may have more difficulty with finalising records. Remember, that fertiliser application is not permitted if heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours.

Machinery purchase

Now is also a good time to review condition of machinery and decide on replacements if necessary. Many tillage farmers talk of going from a policy of frequent replacement to "keep it forever".

Frequent replacement has resulted in some farms becoming over-mechanised and committed to large areas of rented lands in order to maintain machinery cost/ha at a viable level. The "keep it forever" policy will lead to breaks at critical periods and inefficiencies which farmers, and indeed at this stage, the country cannot afford. Other farmers have adopted a policy of replacing something every year or simply waiting until there is surplus cash in the system.

The option of using contractors should never be overlooked as contractor charges may appear expensive but in general are cheaper than ownership costs. Alternatively, the option of a group of farmers putting together one full outfit with each farmer owning and operating one or two pieces of equipment should be considered. However, the final determinant may well be the budget. Let's hope that it will provide an incentive for farmers to invest and to optimise land resources -- the country cannot afford to have land under-utilised.

Patrick J Phelan is an agricultural consultant and a member of the ITCA

Irish Independent