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Springtime and best crops for tillage farmers – Teagasc


Stock photo.

Stock photo.

Stock photo.


SPRING has arrived early in the south east and tillage farmers are busy in the fields preparing to drill spring crops.

We have seen a good demand for spring beans, which were among the first crops to be sown given the dry settled weather from mid-February coupled with continued High Nitrogen costs and the boost in the protein payment with a potential payment of €500/Ha. A typical seed rate would be 210Kgs/Ha (13st/ac).

The Teagasc Costs and Returns would show that beans at a target yield of 2 tonnes/ac would compare favourably with other combinable crops. The Costs and Returns booklet is available at https://www.teagasc.ie/publications/.

Looking at the Gross margins, the other crops that stand out would be winter oilseed rape and malting barley. The performance of beans over the last number of years has been variable on a lot of farms and this has been weather and disease related, to try and reduce variability it is worth noting that beans like moisture retentive soils that do not dry out during summer, so avoid drought prone light land. The big difference I have seen since 2015 is that growers no longer see beans as the crop for the poor field and when beans are sown in good land where the soil indices for phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) are high the yields and overall returns are much better.

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Check your rotation on farm as beans should have a five to six year break between crops to avoid the build-up of disease. Drill early if possible, but soil conditions can be as important as drilling date to avoid problems with poor root development and slow nutrient uptake.

Ideally, beans should be sown by mid-March to optimise yield and also to avoid late harvesting when it can be hard to obtain good moistures.

Optimum plant population is 30-35 plants/m2 and to achieve this:

Thousand Seed weight eg 500g x Target Plant Pop/m2 eg 35 divided by % establishment eg 85% = Seed rate Kgs/Ha eg 206Kgs/Ha (13.1st/ac)

Some spring barley has been sowed in ideal conditions and soil temperatures are running at 9°C, which is much better than the average soil temps of 4-5°C, more typical of February. We would say the bulk of barley will be drilled now as we move into the first two weeks of March. Fingers crossed that the dry spell continues.

Target 300 plants/m2, a variety such as plant, eg TGW 53g x 300plants/m2 divided by 85% establishment = 187Kgs/Ha (divided by 15.56 = 12st/ac) It is important to check the Thousand Grain weight printed on the bags as there can be variation across varieties and seed lots.

Springtime is very busy on tillage farms, and it is really important to plan workload and have a safe system of work. It’s also worth taking a moment to remind ourselves that a good season is a safe season.