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Paul Farmer Writes, North Cork Tillage Farmer

Paul Farmer Writes, North Cork Tillage Farmer

‘Paul Farmer Writes’ is an anonymous blog from a north Cork tillage farmer. It includes updates of ‘Paul’s’ crops and farm news of the 2020/2021 season, and is published in the Dairygold Trust in Tillage magazine.


I am a tillage farmer based in the North Cork area and have been asked to write for the Trust in Tillage publication as to what is happening, and discuss decisions made on our farm for the coming cropping season. We are working 250 acres of owned land, farming a mixture of winter and spring crops in very heavy natured soil’s that can prove challenging at times. We are strong advocators of crop rotation and try to have a complete break with a non-cereal crop every 6 years while all cereals are rotated around a mixture of wheat, barley and oats. During the next 12 months, I will give you an honest assessment of all that is happening and the issues that we encounter along the way, hopefully culminating with a satisfactory harvest next summer. We will make mistakes and you may not agree with all that we do, but we are always trying to do our best, follow the best agronomical advice available both from our Dairygold ASM and Teagasc and we tend to put the envoirment and sustainable type farming top of our agenda. If you have any comments, please send them to the editor who will reply in confidence to you only, if necessary.

We have struggled to save our crops this year as the wet underfoot conditions just made a difficult harvest more challenging, but we have succeeded in getting it all saved at this stage except for the spring beans that are now about to be harvested. Earlier this month, 6th September, we planted oilseed rape, new to the farm as we moved away from it several years ago as we found it technically more difficult to grow with constant challenges from both pests and birds. We decided to go back growing it for a totally different reason this year; we found a few patches of blackgrass in our winter barley and had little choice but to tackle the issue head-on. Firstly, we introduced WOSR back into the rotation. By planting WOSR we have an opportunity to use a range of grassweed herbicide on the area which are giving a good level of control once the species are sensitive to the chemical.

When we discovered the blackgrass plants late last May, we immediately burnt out a few areas in the winter barley crop but I fear that some may have seeded at that stage as they were quiet advanced when they started to appear over the crop canopy ; typical of all rogue plants such as wild oats, canary-grass and now blackgrass. We have also sent samples to Teagasc in Oakpark for identification and chemical sensitivity readings which will help us identify and apply the most suitable chemicals available when deciding herbicide programs to the tillage crops. After the winter barley harvest, we shallow tilled the stubble and burned it off with Round-Up Power-max 7 days before ploughing for the OSR. The plan now is to apply a low rate of herbicide at expanded cotyledon stage of the crop if weather allows, a graminicide in October to control volunteer cereals and grassweeds and Astro-kerb will be applied in mid-winter even at the expense of doing some ground damage in poor weather as needed to control broadleaf weeds and grassweeds again maximising our efforts to control the blackgrass. Depending on the findings by Teagasc on the sample sensitivity, we will be aiming for LATE planted, November only, winter wheat or spring cropping in this area here- after for 4-5 years as cultural control is probably the most effective means of supressing the weed. As we have a large area of OSR we planted 2 varieties, Ambassador and Aurelia, both are Hybrid varieties and have the TuYV (Turnip Yellow Virus) resistance gene in their breeding as this is now been spoken of as a significant problem in some WOSR crops as it can be in cereal production with BYVD (barley yellow dwarf virus). We are monitoring the crop for both slug and flea-beetle activity and they will be treated immediately if required. We will apply slug pellets to the headlands in any case to prevent winter grazing around the crop verges as slugs tend to move out from the grassy headlands into the crop during the winter months.

Our other crop plans are winter wheat after the beans, probably Graham; winter barley after last years wheat, Belfry; oats winter or spring depending on the weather, Isabel and 100 acres of spring barley. The spring barley may change a little if we get an early spring as we will plant early spring beans if the opportunity presents itself.

All the lands are due for soil sampling this autumn which will be completed in the coming weeks; it’s completed every three years. Hedges will be trimmed over the winter and we plan to spray all the headlands this year as scutch coming from heavy ditches has become a noticeable issue this autumn.

Let’s hope now for some nice dry weather that we can get our winter crops planted, into good ground as it will stand to them greatly for the late winter and put the difficult harvest behind us and move on. I will give you an update in the next edition of Trust in Tillage of any issues arising and hopefully will be commenting on our winter crop progress and pending decisions around them as they develop.

















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