Farmer Focus: Soil sampling is an important job on the farm

I normally enjoy January, as I get the machines through the workshop and checked over, ready for spring.

However, this year turned into days of paperwork and staff investigation meetings, which I won’t go into, but this can put a downer on your days. One thing is for sure, CCTV doesn’t lie and is worth every penny.

One of the most important jobs on the farm, in my opinion, is gathering soil samples. Alfie (three years old) gets to come along, which is good family time.

See also: 4 ways to limit spring barley lodging this season

It’s clear that two punishing wet winters have taken their toll, and later-drilled crops are looking backwards.

A field of wheat and another of oats planted in mid-November into good conditions unfortunately need redrilling with spring barley. Awful weather conditions have caused very slow progress and crows attacked the crops as they emerged.

On a positive note, anything that got up and away early is looking excellent considering the winter, with oats looking superb. It is evident that reduced cultivations over the past few years have helped water infiltration through soils. The extreme rainfall has led to some flooding, but it is draining away more quickly.

Last year, I was very pleased with our first go with liquid fertiliser, so I ordered some again. Our 24N plus sulphur has increased 10% from last year, while everything else is pretty much the same.

Fair play to Omex, which delivered the load right on time, which I wasn’t expecting due to Brexit delays. Some people must be able to manage the paperwork and checks OK.

On the flip side, it is frustrating that as a member of the United Kingdom, we won’t have access to the same chemistry here in Northern Ireland.

The first problem is spud fungicides, where an active ingredient available in the UK until 2023 will not be for sale in the EU after this July so, as we are aligned with Europe, we can’t use it.

It’s not clear if we will even be able to use EU-approved products, even if we can buy them, as they will probably not have the correct Mapp number to satisfy Daera.

Hopefully, by the next time I write the dust will be flying and the potato planter in full swing…

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