Watch those closing dates if you want to take extra land

This has been one of the best autumns for sowing with almost no interruption since mid- September. Field germination has exceeded expectations in most cases resulting in higher plant stands. The night frosts of last week were most welcome as they have slowed down crop growth of the earlier sown crops.

Winter rape sown in late August and early September is very advanced and may need management. Some of the early winter barleys are very lush and all of them should have had an aphicide applied by now. There are still some winter oats to be sown -- sow deep so as to keep the growing point low and minimise crop damage in the event of another hard winter.

Weed control should be applied before there is too much crop cover. Cougar, which was the standard for many growers, is not available this year. Straight DFF can be bought but the maximum application rate of 0.25l/ha of 500g/l active ingredient is less than what was permitted in the past. This results in less persistency and poorer activity on stronger weeds. The tank mix partner will need to cover grass weeds and provide activity on stronger or more resistant weeds. Annual meadow grass tends to be more prevalent on land which has been rolled. Straight IPU can be bought as Arelon 500, Croplink IPU or Fieldguard. There are several products providing straight pendimethalin, which, mixed with IPU, will give good broad-spectrum weed control. These and products such as Defy, Flight, Firebird, Bacara, Lexus Class Alister and Sumi-Max will provide most of the range of artillery against weeds for this year. The latter two are for wheat only. As always, you must identify your weeds if you are to select the right product.

SPS and Regulations

The fact that many farmers are still waiting for their 50pc advance SPS payment despite having gone to great grounds to get their mapping upgraded as requested highlights the need to have every requirement in order. On farms where maps still have to be digitised, the 50pc payment has only been paid on the plots which do not require digitisation. This has created a lot of concern but the Department has assured the ACA that payments will be made accordingly as digitisation has been completed on individual plots.

Given the good conditions to date and the fact that most tillage fields planned for sowing this year are already sown, there is now a strong temptation to look for more land and to plough grassland. However, you are not allowed to plough grassland between October 16 and November 30. Any land ploughed between July 1 and October 15 should have green cover from a sown crop by November 1. All arable land which is ploughed must have measures to establish an emerged crop within six weeks. Arable fields which received a non-selective herbicide between July 1 and January 15 must have been managed so as to establish a green cover within six weeks. The best option for land which does not meet the requirement is probably to sow a cereal now either at standard seeding rate to produce a commercial crop or at a reduced rate to simply give green cover to be ploughed as soon as the restricted period for ploughing (currently January 15) is lifted.

Land rental

The first SPS payments each year normally ushers in the silly season for conacre rental at exorbitant prices. There is probably no point in suggesting what the maximum price should be other than to say that the status gained by renting land at excessive prices does nothing for your cash flow or bank balance.

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All land looks good at present but you must make a reasonable attempt at determining yield potential. If renting new land, the least you should do is to bring a spade with you, dig a few trial holes to determine soil type, depth of topsoil and the nature of the subsoil. Look for depth of root penetration, examine both topsoil and subsoil for evidence of iron (red) or manganese (blue) coming out for solution indicating a fluctuating water table. Look for a copy of the most recent soil result and if none is available take a sample and send for analysis. And while I mention sampling don't forget that you must have at least half of your lands which are in continuous tillage soil sampled this year for organic matter.

I've just spoken to a farmer whose statement on oilseed rape delivery shows over 10pc admixture -- is that possible?

Patrick J Phelan is an agricultural consultant, and member of ITCA. Email:

Irish Independent

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