It’s that time of year again where we reflect on the season and arable farming in Ireland can be summed up in one word – unpredictable.
From a very pessimistic and gloomy outlook earlier this year, it has taught us to remain positive that things can always improve. Grain stores are full and it seems the extra applied potash has paid off in yields where JB Diego Winter wheat averaged 9.9t/ha while the Husky winter oats and spring barley both averaged 8t/ha.
Comprehensive soil sampling last autumn will form the basis for the fertiliser programme this spring. Soil samples revealed high magnesium levels which may lock up some of the soil potassium. Coupled with the removal of potassium in straw, it will mean that a similar high rate of potash will be applied for next year’s crops.
To reflect recent research and our own experience, this year we have cultivated stubbles to a depth of 15-17.8cm (6-7in). Conditions have been ideal; the dry soils have shattered when cultivated which will improve drainage and structure in preparation for the spring barley next year.
The fodder rape cover crop is growing well and will help reduce soil slump over the winter and maintain soil structure. This will be sprayed off in early spring with glyphosphate and incorporated prior to drilling. We have found that this cover crop helps soil structure, a contributing factor to our higher yielding spring barley.
JB Diego winter wheat and Mascani winter oats will be sown before the end of September, with Mascani replacing Husky as the sole winter variety. Its earlier sowing capability will suit our min-till establishment – my aim is to have all the winter crops established before the end of September while soil and air temperatures are still high.
As we prepare for another growing season, the glass looks a lot fuller this autumn with both the good yields and higher prices boosting cereal prospects in Ireland. Let’s hope this brings renewed vitality and optimism to an industry that has needed a lift for the past few years.