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Winter oats ruined by big freeze but barley and wheat looking really well

I've ploughed 40ac of winter oats back into the ground after it failed due to the freezing conditions and I will plough in another 10ac shortly. This was a spring variety, Husky, and the root system appears to have died, even though there is a small green shoot above ground.

This crop had a good snow cover for the first frost, but the second frost last month did the damage. I decided to plough it all back in because even if some of the plants survived, it would not have been a viable crop.

Replanting that land with spring oats will take place around the end of February or mid-March, depending on the weather.

I'm lucky to have enough seed to replace those 50ac because seed is scarce and there is talk of imported English seed costing €590/t, that's €120-140/t more than Irish seed cost last autumn.

Another 35ac of a true winter variety, Mascani, survived the frost with no problems and looks perfect at the moment. Horsey people love the Mascani variety because it's a lovely golden grain, but the rest of the oats goes on contract to Flahavans.

Looking at the winter crops, the 150ac of winter barley and 150ac of winter wheat are looking really well at this stage.

The winter wheat was sown early, between September 10 and 15, because I know that my ground is colder than the surrounding area and I like the crop to be well established before the cold weather sets in.

It looks like this year's crop was well able to put up with the freezing conditions. I used JB Diego again as it performed well at the last harvest, averaging 3.5t/ac.

For the winter barley, I had planned on a three-way split between Sequel, Liebenez and Cassia so as to have an early, mid-season and late ripening variety in the crop and not have all my eggs in one basket.

That means that the crops don't all ripen together and if it rains for a week at harvest, not all crops are in trouble.

However, last year I couldn't save enough Sequel seed due to impurities and it was too expensive to import so I went with just Liebenez, the mid-season six-row variety and Cassia, the later two-row variety.

The Cassia crop looked a bit yellow for a while after the cold weather but has come on again since, while the Liebenez stayed nice and green throughout the winter.

All of the winter barley and winter wheat got a spray of herbicide, pesticide and a liquid phospite in early October. The winter crops all need phosporous (P) in the first six weeks of life in order to develop a good root system and make sure the plant can take up enough nutrients. The winter barley also got a pesticide and manganese/sulphur mix in November before the snow.

Soil testing over the winter showed that all my soils need P and potassium (K) this year. I had cut back on P and K applications for the past few years because of the price of fertiliser but I will be aiming to put on 10:10:20 at 200kg/ac across everything this year.

I also take in mushroom compost every autumn.


I am preparing for the spring work by getting the machinery serviced and repaired. The cultivator and drill need to be organised, while the fertiliser spreader and the sprayer needs to be checked out after the freezing conditions of this winter.

I have my own weather station here on the farm, which is used by AgMet and myself.

The 2010 rainfall figure was 32.5 inches, compared to 48in in 2009. If you take one inch of rainfall is equal to 102t of water/ac, that's a difference of 1,581t of water less/acre in 2010.

I believe that lower rainfall helped the soil immensely last year because the fields do not have the same weight of water on them, which is a major help to crops.

Incidentally, the coldest day I recorded on the farm was December 21, when the temperature dropped to minus 11.1C.

Noel Delany farms 385ac at Parson's Hill Farm in Fethard, Co Tipperary, and is the current IFA grain chairman

Indo Farming