We are left with a dilemma on the spring barley crop

Winter barley being harvested. Photo: O'Gorman Photography.
Winter barley being harvested. Photo: O'Gorman Photography.
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

The cold weather earlier in the spring acted as a natural growth regulator, so when the weather and the soil warmed up everything took off.

We had a lot of work to do all at the same time. Get the fertiliser out and spray the winter crops and then plough, sow and roll the spring crops. We put the spring barley (Propino) in the slightly wetter fields which needed extra time to dry up. We also sowed at a slightly heavier than normal rate of 12st per acre as the ground is quite heavy.

One of the wet fields, that in previous years had been in spring barley, has been growing grass for the last five years. It was very difficult to cut during a wet harvest and it would only take one small mechanical break to take the profit out of the field.

It is now described as permanent pasture. If we need to increase our EFAs (Ecological Focus Area) in the future we cannot make a field of permanent pasture fallow.

We decided to chance putting spring barley back into the field this year, which will give us more options for EFAs in the future. It may also give us more options for GLAS, if we are accepted.

We will have to put a permanent fence down the middle if we decide to use it for both EFAs and GLAS. If we did this we could put wild bird cover on one side and fallow on the other.

The dilemma we face is whether we invest in a spring barley crop this year - or not waste any money and effort and just mow it down.

When a crop is looking good and well established it's very hard not to try and get something out of it even if it's only to cover the cost of putting it in.

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The risk is if we get a wet harvest after investing in the crop and can't get any grain out.

Our oilseed rape (PT234) which is a full hybrid, is now a spectacular bright yellow colour with all the plants in full bloom. I love this time of year when you see the bright fields for miles.

It's our first year to grow a tall hybrid. Previously we went with semi dwarf varieties. I thought it would be even taller by now.

The benefit of a semi dwarf is that the whole plant is ripe at the same time but with a tall variety the top can be way more advanced than the bottom pods. We felt we may be able to increase our yield by going with the full height variety.

We put out five bags per acre of Dynamo chicken litter pellets on the oilseed rape. We have never used the pellets before, but they are very safe and easy to handle in one-tonne bags.

They have the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur fertiliser value of 20:10:15+55 and one bag of ground lime. It has also got 170 units of nitrogen and 30 units of sulphur. We sprayed it with Presaro at 1l/ha and Bortrac at 1l/ha for light leaf spot.

The winter wheat got four bags per acre of 10:7:24+3S followed by four bags of SULCAN (27pcN+S). When we were spraying the temperatures were very low at night and warm during the day. This wide difference of temperatures pushed us to use sprayfast as a sticker with CeCeCe at 1.75l/ha and Bravo at1l/ha.

The winter barley has also got four bags per acre of 10:7:24+3S, followed with three bags per acre of SULCAN. It got Ceraide at 1l/ha and Modus at 0.15l/ha for growth regulation.

It also got Zepher at 0.75l/ac with Avena at 0.25l/ha with Enhancer as a sticker, for wild oats. It then got another 27 units of nitrogen. Rhynco was still active in the field so we went back out with 0.5l of Proline, 0.4l of Corbel, 1l of Bontima and 1l of Terpal for growth regulation.

In general the crops are all looking good - if only we we could keep the crows off the spring barley.

The last of last year's wheat and barley is going out. The sheds won't be empty for long this year. We will be empty in June and filling up again in July.

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

hharris@ independent.ie

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