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Friday 19 January 2018

Trial plots point the way as fantastic July tees up crops for 2013's harvest

Helen Harris

Helen Harris

What a fantastic July we have had. The sun shone and the crops look really great because of it. They have turned inside out since the long cold spell during spring. It was heartening to see the combine back in the field for the start of this year's harvest.

When I hear the combine roar and smell the fresh straw it gives me the shivers - all our work during the year has come to this.

There is something almost romantic about having tea and sandwiches in a freshly-cut field. The long days and warm nights, chatting with your neighbours, and all the comings and goings.

At the beginning of the month we went around looking at various trial plots with Teagasc, Drummonds and Syngenta. These are very informative days. You can see in practical terms what the difference is between crops. It can be fungicides, fertilisers or varieties.

They cover a wide range of comparisons. This time last year we were impressed with a new variety of winter wheat we saw in one such trial called Avatar.

We grew it this year and so far it looks good and it will be interesting to compare it to some of the other varieties, especially JB Diego, which did very well for us last year. This year is no different with another couple of varieties catching our eye.

One is a new barley called Volume which is a six-row hybrid. There were also very impressive winter wheat varieties called Leeds and Dunmore. The Leeds trial plot had huge heads and if you could get it to grow like that in a farm situation you would have a bumper crop.

We have also had some varieties that looked great in trial plots, but never repeated the same results in a farm situation.

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We try to get a small amount of a new variety every year. If it does well we can use it for seed the following year. If it does badly we haven't risked too much.

Some of the fungicide plots we saw were very similar because of the low pressure this year. However, with this warm showery weather I would imagine they would look very different now.

We have cut our Cassia winter barley and it did very well at about 4t per acre. I'm not as confident with our spring barley as it still looks thin.

The winter wheat looked greener for longer this year and I don't know if that will affect the harvest date or not. It is changing colour every day in the warm sunshine. The heads are bright and yellow and soon it will be starting to sway.

We have a few very busy weeks ahead of us in August as we will be cutting our oil seed rape (OSR) and then trying to replant after the winter barley with more OSR for next year. At the same time we hope to be cutting the winter wheat and spring barley.

We will try to get as much stubble cultivation done as we can. If we need any drainage work or the hedges cut it all this all has to fit into a very tight window of time.

The ESB have tried to change a pole in one field and every year we ring them to tell them that the field is clear to work on and every year they arrive too late as the crop is sown.

Maybe this is the year we get the new pole.

This year for the first time we went with a semi-dwarf variety of OSR. It was a roller-coaster of a crop. It came out of winter looking good. Then the pigeons cleared the field. At the end of the day it looks as though it has very good potential so we are now thinking of growing another semi-dwarf next year. The dilemma is that we have to order seed before the crop is cut. Hopefully this is the right decision.

Helen and Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email: helenharrisfarm@gmail.com Twitter: @kildarefarmer

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