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By Liam Leahy Dairygold Tillage & Beef Business Manager I.A.S.I.S.
Dairygold have being doing some work with some local farmers this year, looking at alternative crops and with special emphasis on proteins both as mono and dual cropping options.
Beans, which most growers are familiar with were planted in both the winter and spring and have had a very successful harvest to date. Both the winter and early planted spring beans have yielded 3tn plus per acre, the more normal February/March plantings are also producing very well with most yields in the 2.6/2.8tn range. This makes beans the most profitable crop in most farms this year and gives the ground a great break which will reward the following crops for the next 2 to 3 years. While we were concerned about the density of the crop all season, it doesn’t seem to have had any negative effect on its production. Also, it’s worth noting that the storms and wet weather didn’t damage the crops to any degree either.
Peas have proved to be a challenge as this year was probably the most difficult year in the last 15 to save the crop which got a constant battering from awful weather at exactly the wrong time. Very wet weather in their final three weeks pre harvest can be very damaging to the crop as it both lodged and caused excessive shedding to any crop that was well advanced in maturing at that stage. One crop that was planted later simply for the grower’s own workload was totally unaffected and harvested on the 6th September with a fine rewarding yield of 2.25t/ac. We plan to continue to look at this crop going forward but growers need to be aware that it needs to get priority harvesting when ready at 20% to 24% moisture, Grown in a light early site in a field that is open and exposed to allow good drying facilities, and be prepared for a poor year, maybe 1 in 6. They are very profitable otherwise, a great break crop, but carry real risks, all involving the weather.
We also grew a companion crop of spring barley and peas which was harvested on approximately 15th August. It was home saved for own use as there are still issues with millers being able to make a declaration/description of the crop that will satisfy DAFM requirements when including it as a feed ingredient for compounding. The estimated yield was 2.75t/ac and while the actual analysis isn’t available yet, I would say maybe 65:35 Barley: Pea which would be 13.5% P fresh weight or 17% in dry matter. It presents well and will process nicely also. The agronomics of this crop would include a regular P and K program, reduced nitrogen to say 80 units on broken ground as the peas will offer extra N to the overall crop and also its imperative that the crop is kept standing; we used 50kg of both Peas and Barley seed per acre when planting, probably near enough right; should get a pre-emergence herbicide, spray for aphids and pea weevil and one broad spectrum fungicide at GS35-38. The straw was also very nice and will make a great feed for a diet feeder as had a lovely texture to it. Volumes were well back on what you would expect from a regular crop of barley, partly due to the year but also less seed planted in the first instance. This is certainly a crop that home grown feeders could look at as you will end up with a total feed suitable for most stock.
Soya was another crop we looked at and again threw up real testing challenges. It’s a crop that isn’t really grown in Ireland as it’s very late harvesting and has a peculiar growth habit: slow start, fast middle, slow finish. We planted it in mid-April in three different sites and I feel it was too early. It germinated slowly as ground was too cold and pigeons took a fancy to it early on. It really sat there going nowhere until mid-July and it then literally took off. Plants re-appeared that I thought were grazed out and have made serious efforts to crop. It grows rapidly but matures late and that presents its own challenges. It’s certainly worth looking at as a forage crop but, probably late to be considering combining harvesting; time will tell. Agronomically it was also difficult as it was slow to challenge late germinating weeds and now with our reducing arsenal of AI it is becoming more problematic to control such late challenges. Still an interesting crop to work with.
I’d like to thank all the growers who worked and helped us this year with this project; it took time and patience, but you have contributed greatly to the knowledge base required to evaluate these crops.
Gordon and Loraine Sullivan. Belgooly.
Kevin and Quiva Kiely. Kinsale
Anthony and Stephen Collins. Mogeely.
William Tait. Whitegate.
John Power. Killeagh.