PJ Phelan: Tillage farmers are now fighting on two fronts for access to land
All sectors of farming are facing ever increasing challenges and uncertainty.
All sectors of farming are facing ever increasing challenges and uncertainty.
Reports on crop growth and yields over the years, and particularly last year, frequently comment on the advantages of organic manure (OM)...
The loss of IPU - our main control for annual meadowgrass - the potential loss of chlorothalonil and the fact that we will no longer have Retigo...
The current round of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is due to expire in 2019 but is likely to be rolled over into 2020, 2021 or perhaps 2022 before a new programme is put into place.
Farmers have very little influence over the renewal of pesticide approvals or of new pesticide registrations. In order to protect their survival and to enable them to achieve our national...
We have another spraying season about to commence so it is time to ensure that any mistakes made last season are not repeated this year. First to the simple things:
Over the years I'm sure you have read lots of articles on fertiliser use. Most are technically strong with plenty of well-researched information and advice for farmers how to get the best from fertiliser use/fertiliser plans based on recent soil samples, advice on slurry/organic fertiliser use and timing of fertiliser application.
Ricard Deasy told me many years ago that "if you are not making progress you are going backwards".
Sense has prevailed - glyphosate is to be re-registered in the EU. However the re-registration is only for five years rather than the 15 years that its safety data and agrochemical role justifies.
The long-drawn-out harvest, some of which we failed to save, has been follow by dreadful conditions for those attempting to sow winter crops in the midlands.
Your cereal disease control programme commenced with your variety selection.
Last week's decision by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) that glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen is a major relief for farmers.
Over the past few months, I have highlighted the difficulties European farmers face when competing with produce produced in other countries where there is less regulation and where yields are...
My last article, in which I suggested that farmers be allowed to grow GM varieties if consumers are not willing to pay a premium for GM-free produce, resulted in some very strongly worded responses.
Farmers are food producers - no farmers, no food.
This year has clearly demonstrated the importance of native grain for both dairy and livestock enterprises.
The winter barley harvest is almost over -two to three weeks ahead of target. Yields have been variable ranging from 2.5t/ac to slightly over 4t/ac.
Every year produces new challenges and sometimes opportunities for tillage farmers.
Dairy farmers normally achieve 'Magic Day' in early April, but this year some are still buying in fodder and all are concerned as to how to manage grass this year and to have enough fodder for this winter.
There is a serious backlog of work on most tillage farms. We have very few fields fit for ploughing and no sowing done yet despite being into April. It's yet more proof, if needed, of the futility of calendar farming.
Tillage farmers are great people to adopt new technology be it new cultivation equipment, new herbicides, fungicides, trace elements or bio stimulants.
Between now and September 15 farmers will sow 20,000ha of catch crops and 10,000ha of oilseed rape.
Harvest has commenced, crops are promising and we have a small lift in prices.
Rain in mid May was very welcome for our late spring sown crops but enough is enough.
Last weekend's rain brought much needed moisture to spring crops. Emergence is uneven with drier areas in fields having poor ground cover and moisture retentive areas reasonably well covered in.
The Nitrate Regulations have very strict requirements on ploughing, herbicide usage and stockpiling of farmyard manures many of which are easily forgotten.
While the boats are still bringing in maize distillers, soya hulls, palm kernel etc, we are back sowing cereals despite still not knowing what we are being paid for last year's crop.
Europe has sold us a pup on agriculture and the tillage farmer is first in line to take the pain. Brussels' cheap food policy and a plethora of quality assurance schemes has convinced consumers that any food that comes in a nicely packaged labelled container.
Spirits have lifted a little, following the disappointment with winter barley yields, with winter wheat crops ranging from 4-5t/ac. Early indications are that spring barley crops are promising but we are heading for a late harvest with many crops unlikely to be fit for harvesting for at least another week or 10 days.
The start of the winter barley harvest gave some very disappointing yields but as we progress, yields and bushel weights have improved.
Crops are looking very promising at present and are generally disease free. The latter is largely due to a combination of low disease pressure and good timing of fungicide usage.
Europe wants quality food, cheap food and environmental protection - and all at the same time.
The modest price predictions for this year's harvest has brought some element of realism to conacre prices.
February is usually one of the driest months of the year. However, February this year gave 109mm of rain at my local Met station in Gurteen, Co Tipperary. This exceeded the maximum monthly rainfall since records commenced in Gurteen in March 2008.
The suggestion, last week in this section, by Pat Minnock for leaving some land fallow shocked some farmers and acted as a real wake-up call for conacre prices.
Yields in 2015 exceeded all expectations but poor prices left farmers working their own lands with a modest profit, while most conacre died in debt.
The new pesticide sprayer regulations have been introduced to promote responsible use of pesticides. Much of the content covered in the training courses is second nature to experienced operators.
With crops harvested and animals being taken off land, now is the time for commercial farmers to make the financial decision on land rental for the coming year or years. Costs and returns from each block of rented lands should be analysed in order to determine their viability.
The closed period for organic fertilisers starts on October 15 for slurry spreading, and on November 1 for farmyard manure (FYM). So the next few weeks are the final opportunity this year to spread.
The long grain fill period has paid a grain yield dividend but at the expense of a delayed harvest.
One day last week I visited two farms, each of which had close to 140ac of winter barley cut. Yields on both were similar, averaging 3.8 t/ac but that is where the similarity ended.
Soil and weather conditions proved very challenging for crops in May and June of this year.
There has been a tremendous amount of work done over the past two weeks. The first fungicide, T1, was applied to spring barley and the T2s finished off in winter wheat. That was combined in many cases with mowing and harvesting of silage. Long hours and work pressure, if allowed, puts safety standards and attention to detail at risk.
Crop growth stages and spray programmes are extremely variable, so farmers have had to take every chance and half chance to spray.
Bright sunshine and warm days, despite some cold evenings and nights have brought tremendous growth. Winter barley has moved rapidly from tillering to flag-leaf emergence. The period of stem extension is when you get best value from fungicides.
Work has been a particularly busy over the last few weeks for advisors trying to evaluate the new schemes and determine how they can be optimised to the benefit of their clients.
Crops have generally done very well over the winter and the current cold snap will help to contain pest and disease progress.
The most recent series of cross compliance checks have focused farmers' minds on paperwork. This time round they have a very thought provoking sheet to fill in on Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The questions asked are simple but highlight the vast range of tools that we use, or misuse, in order to control crop pests. The reaction of most farmers when asked about pest control is to list insecticide usage and, with a little more thought, seed dressings, herbicides and fungicides. However pest control in the not so distant past was solely by non-chemical means such as...
The wise man learns from the mistakes of others; some learn from their own mistakes and others keep on making mistakes until the money is all gone.
The biggest decision to be made on most tillage farms in late October and November traditionally has been whether to sow the last few fields in winter corn or to wait for the spring.
Potato growers have been managing this year's main crop since last April and are now about to commence harvesting. It might appear that the most difficult part for the grower is over but in fact it is just about to start - marketing.
The three-crop requirement under greening for farmers with 30+ ha of cereals will result in many farmers being forced to grow crops for the 2015 harvest which they have not previously grown.
Most crops have now received their final fungicides. While we continue to monitor crops, the economics of further pesticide applications is questionable in all bar some spring crops. Weed control has been very effective in most crops but the incidence of herbicide resistance is increasing. Resistance of chickweed to sulfonylureas and CMPP has been a problem in the midlands for several years, so that we have been relying largely on products containing flouxypyr for control.
Last week offered some great spraying opportunities and enabled the backlog of work to be cleared. Granted, potatoes and fodder beet were still being planted, so some growers may not be out of the woods yet.
Calendar farming has been a bone of contention with farmers since the advent of the nitrate regulations. But, the reality is that, when the crunch comes, farmers often work by the calendar anyway.
It now appears that the major portion of spring sowing will be done over the Easter period. The upside is that the timing should coincide with a plentiful supply of extra help, with both school holidays and a long weekend for the part-timers providing some options.
The current disastrous prices for potatoes and poor price prospect for grain for the 2014 harvest highlights the need for a floor, linked to production costs, for agricultural product prices.
Field work is at a standstill on most tillage farms. Last week saw most of the final herbicide applications. Despite the dry weather conditions crops and weeds remained wet, making it difficult to get a suitable spraying day.
The closing date for the consultation process on Direct Payments Regulation is this Friday – September 20. This is the last opportunity we will have to ensure that underutilised land is brought into production by farmers who wish to draw down Single Farm Payment (SFP). This scope lies with the definition of 'active farmer', which still has to be finalised.
Virtually all spring crops are now sown and planting of potatoes is at an advanced stage. Hopefully most growers will pull back on last year's acreage of potatoes so as to reduce the risk of too much supply next winter.
Time is moving on and growers are getting impatient with soil conditions still being too wet to plough. However, evidence of working in less than ideal conditions is seen every year, resulting in poor establishment of crops, uneven crops and ultimately poor yield.
Permission to plough from December 1, under the nitrate regulations, was seen as a much-needed solution to a restriction which placed Irish farmers at a severe disadvantage and which was damaging soil structure.
Department's recommended cereal seed list is essential farmer reading
Hopefully your chemical store is now empty and your pesticide records showing all purchases, PCS numbers and applications for 2011 are ready for inspection.
Recent rain and harsh winds have made crop inspections very difficult. Waterlogging in compacted and low-lying fields has resulted in winter barley plant kill.
Soil conditions improved a little last week, giving an opportunity to sow winter wheat and, for a few brave farmers, some winter barley.
While many areas in the east and north east have considerable areas sown in good conditions, farmers in north Tipperary have been less fortunate. The harvest was longer than ideal, with never more than two suitable days together, and this has been followed by similar conditions for sowing.
With a good forecast for this week, most farmers chose to sit tight on harvesting winter barley last week in Tipperary. Yields were in a range of 7-10t/ha with bushels of 67-69 and moistures generally high at 20-22pc.
The forecast for scattered outbreaks of rain for today and for more persistent rain tomorrow has led to huge pressure to get sowing of spring corn completed.
This time last year, Liffey Mills gave a badly needed reassurance to farmers by offering €100/t for barley. We waited eagerly for other merchants to follow. Some farmers decided to leave land fallow.
The past week has been spent surveying crop survival rates, telling guys not to rush into ploughing and finishing off the last of the soil sampling for soil organic matter. There is also some interest in starting to spread nitrogen on thin crops but this should be delayed until the middle to the end of next month.
L ast year will be remembered by most tillage farmers as the year that grain prices exceeded all expectations. Unlike their fellow farmers in Britain, very few had forward sold grain and were able to obtain better market prices for produce.
The cereal harvest is now almost completed. Prices of €140 for green barley and €150+ for wheat are available and are providing a good margin on most farms. Straw remains scarce and continues to command prices of at least 25pc more than last year. Despite the good prices, for many it will simply enable outstanding merchant accounts to be cleared.
THE DOOM and gloom of the past two years' grain prices has lifted, to be replaced with cautious optimism. Given improved prices and reduced fertiliser costs this year, margins should be €150/ac better than last year, and grain quality is excellent.