Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Yields from spring oilseed rape have been success story of 2011


Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

This has been one of the longest harvests for some time but the grain harvest appears to be almost complete except for beans and some spring wheat. Again, there are reasonable reports coming in for spring wheat yields at 3.5t/ac and higher. Proteins are variable, with small numbers of crops at proteins over 10.5.

Beans cut in the past fortnight were harvested at high moistures but most of the crop remains to be harvested. Yields of more than 3t/ac and a price of €185/t have been achieved.

Spring oilseed rape was the success story of this year, with yields of 1.5t/ac and more despite significant shedding. Prices of €380/t were achieved, making this the stand out crop for returns this year.

Grain yields and prices have been very acceptable this year. The only real bad news for the tillage man in the past nine months was the price of straw, with much of it sold struggling to make €40-€50/ac on the flat. Given current fertiliser prices, straw at that price would give better returns if re-incorporated into soil.

The sowing season for winter cereals is in full swing. There are varying reports, but it is likely winter oilseed rape sowings are up 35-50pc, with forward price indications of €360/t.

Winter barley sowings are also up significantly and, as of last week, even winter wheat seed appears to be getting very scarce. Sowing winter barley and winter oats should be completed as soon as possible and should only be contemplated if sowing conditions are good. Seeding rates for winter barley should rise to 160-180kg/ha (10-12 stone/ac) and oats at 160-175kg/ha (10-11 stone/ac).

The early sown winter oilseed rape crop is now at full ground cover. This will have enormous advantages when it comes to controlling pigeons later on, as pigeons will not land in these crops. Caramba or Folicur should be considered now.

These will give autumn disease control and some growth regulatory effect. This could be applied with a graminicide for volunteer cereals or wild oats, if required. Adding a liquid phosphate to improve rooting will be beneficial on backward crops.

Also Read

Some of the early sown winter barley and wheat is well advanced and must be sprayed immediately for aphid control.

I note lots of volunteer cereals being ploughed down. This is a natural carryover for aphids and the likelihood of barley yellow dwarf virus is significant. Apply a contact insecticide at the 2-4 leaf stage.

Grain prices have taken a downward spiral recently. There is every danger that grain prices will be significantly back for next year's harvest, with some indications already of €130/t for green barley and €136/t for green wheat for next harvest. It is equally likely that input costs, particularly fertiliser ones, will increase dramatically this year.

It is essential, therefore, that you watch the markets during the year and take positions with selling grain at a number of times throughout the year.

Farmers should keep detailed costs of crops and know the break-even point, estimate the margin required and be in a position to take reasonable prices if they become available throughout the season.

Nitrogen is currently priced at €350/t, up at least 25pc on this time last year and very likely to be much higher in the spring. The big demand for fertiliser from India and China, coupled with the currency exchange rates between the euro and the dollar, as well as scarcity of product, especially potash, may lead to very expensive fertiliser next spring.

It is likely that there will be opportunities during the year to tie in grain at reasonable prices.

More growers adopted the forward-selling approach this year. I believe this has stood to many growers particularly well this season and gives them a taste of what might be possible if they watch markets closely.

Pat Minnock is the Carlow-based president of the ACA and a member of the ITCA.

Indo Farming