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A View from the Field – Tillage Update

A View from the Field – Tillage Update

By Liam Leahy Dairygold Tillage & Beef Business Manager I.A.S.I.S.

After a beautiful summer and a dreadful autumn, attention now turns to the coming season. While there isn’t a lot of activity just now on the land, it gives us all time to reflect, measure, make informed decisions and prepare in the best way possible for the season ahead. Good well-thought-out plans and strategy could make you more money than a lot of poorly planned hard work. Have you that little note book where all these things that you put off until the end of harvest to do are written? Probably not. But you still know most of them and plan to get around to all over time, and you will, because if they were important then they are still important. Such items may include some of the following:

  1. Do a complete crop performance review and establish all the various costs in a true and balanced way, it is only then that you can make a proper informed decision on your future crop plans.
  2. Get your crop pesticide records up to date if not completed already.
  3. Make sure that your nitrate data is completed and compliant.
  4. Get your soil samples up to date. Recheck part of a field that was poor and thin when harvesting. There is little point worrying a lot about the expensive P and K applications if your lime – pH levels are low. Get land block tested for trace elements once. They tend to stay relatively static in the soil so there isn’t any need to get them retested every 3 years.
  5. Dairygold will be on hand to help you in everyway with this job, from taking the samples to testing and supplying an informed farm plan to the necessary requirements.
  6. Consider applying organic manures if available, especially to depleted soils, but always make sure that you are within the DAFM application dates and crop suitability as you are asked not to apply to ground that certain crops are going to be grown on.
  7. Hedges should be tidied up in a way that is compliant with all environmental schemes and respectful to nature; keep them structured with a reasonable body to them that will support a level of biodiversity and sustainability. Hedge cutting period is 1st September to 28th February.
  8. Consider sub-soiling where ground has gone very compact. Present broken weather or ground conditions are not very suitable for such work as you need the ground to be hard and brittle as you need the ploughs to crack and burst the pans rather than slip and slide through them; you will get the right time and no point rushing into such actions.
  9. Study and evaluate the DAFM crop varieties recommended lists and make informed decisions as to what suits your cropping plan best. These may include varieties that you can plant earlier than others, some may suit more exposed sites, the presence of grassweeds can eliminate certain crops or varieties from your plan, some may have the advantages of allowing you supply a valued added market and some seed can be cheaper than others.
  10. Consider crop rotation that includes a non – cereal crop where possible. Good rotations are worth a lot in both yield and quality to all crops involved in a good rotation along with affording you the opportunity to address difficult weeds in places. Crops such as protein beans, oilseed rape, peas, beet, maize etc…. and, oats if you prefer a combinable crop.

The final combinable crop left in the field are some protein beans which are well into harvest at this stage. They are yielding very satisfactory and have weathered the difficult autumn with little losses. They have become a very important crop to many growers at this stage as have proved to be excellent as both a soil conditioner and nutrient provider to the soils and a great entry for winter wheat which again will prove to be the best paying cereal crop in most growers accounts. A few crops were sprayed with Round-Up 3 weeks pre harvest to kill off any scutch or difficult weeds as these grower’s plan to plant straight into this bed either with a direct strip drill or after a light disking followed with a conventional one-pass. Desiccation in the true sensee of the word has become difficult now with the loss of Reglone; nature will do the same job only have patience.


In the field at present there is little action, except for oil seed rape that is now approaching the first pair of true leaves, 1 prTL. Very little got sprayed pre-emergence as weather was difficult with poor ground conditions and then came through very quickly. This is ok as there are many options from early post emergence with Katamaran Turbo and Belcar to later applications in November and December of Astrokerb. The one thing I would say however is if you get a chance to go in any stage consider taking it as it may be your only chance for a while. Get some advice from you Dairygold ASM as to the various options available and you can make a more informed decision then. Also continue to monitor for Flea Beetle and slug activity as a lot of damage can be done very quickly, especially to plants at cotyledon to 2 TL stage.


Stubble ground is being sprayed off now also where winter barley is planned for, there is no rush yet with wheat ground, especially if you are concerned as to weather you can get it planted in October as you have DAFM compliance issues if sprayed and left barn over the winter. Other ground has been planted with catch crops, some in schemes, others just to benefit soil structure. At this late stage they will really need some kind weather if they are going to contribute much to the soil but those in schemes will be financially covered in any case.


It has been a great year for beet growing with some excellent crops on view. While its not a major crop any more in the tillage circle, it’s important to those that continue to grow on contract to livestock feeders as its invaluable to both their rotation and cashflow. Most crops were sprayed in early August with Opera to prevent foliar diseases and maintain good leaf and crowns which is essential for harvest lifting especially if leaving some in the ground until the new year. Crops remained clean in most cases even though two herbicide applications were common but had the benefit of a very competitive crop thereafter.

Maize in the last 10 days have started to lose is colour and ripen very quickly and I’d expect to see some harvested in the coming days. There are excellent crops there in what can only be described a near perfect growing year for this continental type crop. Both verities and agronomical practices have really grown with this crop in recent years and is now a main part of many livestock winter forage budget.

Vegetables are now grown mostly by small garden growers who are specializing in local and shop direct trade. It’s great to see top quality produced with pride and local people supporting it. There are a few specialized large-scale growers also who produce under contract for the large wholesalers and they likewise farm with great care and attention and can often find themselves exposed to shifting market conditions outside of their control but still suffering the brunt of it.

“One asks at times what is a contract if it can be changed so readily. “

Potatoes growers are now commencing the autumn harvesting lift where they require good trafficable ground both for the benefit of lifting this crop but also leaving the ground in some reasonable state for the next crop. The gear is big for output reasons and damage can occur in broken weather. The loss of Reglone this year has proven to be difficult to replace with the new product, Spotlight Plus, as they are both slower to work and very reliant on hot sunny weather for best effects, not in abundance locally this year. Growers have persisted and are getting the crops burnt down but always fear late blight when the crop is injured and more exposed during this prolonged senescing period. The market has been difficult in recent times with slow sales particularly for non-contract manufacturing potatoes but also for shop sales despite all that we read about the big increase in home cooking. While crops have reasonable yields, quality have been an issue with very big potatoes from lower tuber count crops; these potatoes can be difficult to sell particularly in an over supplied market. Some varieties are also slow in maturing especially Ker Pinks despite its medium maturing label. Eating quality is excellent and hopefully the market will correct itself over the coming weeks and months as potatoes are an expensive crop both to grow and store resulting in few but very expertise growers and they need to be supported.

Local Beetroot is also being harvest at present both for industrial and shop sales. The yields are good, and the market is taking all offered to it. Again, it’s a contract market and needs good planning to ensure a constant flow of properly sized roots that suit your given market.

Locally growing onions for the shop trade were harvested some weeks ago in great conditions which will help no end to their storing. There were good yields and again also grown for specialised contracted markets by specialized growers.

Cabbages, Broccoli have had a difficult year as they just don’t like this wet humid weather. While yields are ok, the maturing dates are difficult to manage as too much can come on to the market together despite their staggered planting dates. Again, this depresses prices and very quickly leaves little margin to the growers in what is an awfully labour-intensive operation with high costs.


Table Turnip are also a crop grown locally and again with their own problems. There planted in mid-summer into a times very dry soils like this season and a lot had to be replanted as failed to establish successfully; also, they got heavily attacked by flee beetle and that just wiped them out. They can be difficult to establish and need to grow quickly as they need to compete with weed burden later. Again, a very specialized crop, grown by specialised growers for contract markets. Like most other vegetable crops, they have a big labour requirement, often in difficulty weather but are rewarding when all goes well, sometimes even exported.


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