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Ploughing Grassland for Tillage Crops

New Tillage Incentive Scheme

The launch of the Tillage Incentive Scheme by the Department of Agriculture was welcomed by the tillage industry as an excellent first step to supporting the industry. The primary aim of the scheme is to increase the amount of grain or forage grown in country. Many will argue this is not particularly a beneficial scheme for specialist tillage farmers. A farmer will only get paid if grassland is ploughed up and the area of tillage crops increases on the farm. Although a very specialist tillage farmer may not have much grass there are quite a substantial proportion of farmers who have tillage and grassland and may be in a position to plough more area. See the DAFM press release here

There may also be an opportunity for specialist tillage farmers to work closely with a grassland farm to sow and harvest their crops. This may be more advantageous for the tillage farmer allowing the grassland farm to shoulder the risks/rewards of growing the crop. However the grassland farmer will rely on the expertise of the specialist tillage farmer to help achieve high yields and thus profitability.

See more information on the Tillage Incentive Scheme and Economics of Growing Crops .

Also see the excel Costs Returns 2022 Self Calculator which will help you work out your own costs.  The figures in the calculator are based on the Teagasc Costs and Returns document.

Other possibilities to increase specialist tillage farmers area include short term rent or long-term lease but there is also an option to share farming which might suit all parties. Read more:

Converting grassland to tillage crops

When converting grassland to tillage the first place to start is to see if seed, fertiliser and other inputs will be available and for farms in an area with little tillage, is there a combine available to harvester the crop?.   A careful budget needs to be completed to ensure profitability can be achieved on the land.   Due to the costs of growing any tillage crop unfortunately there are no shortcuts when growing tillage crops.   The only way to make any money is to strive for high yields of both grain and straw.   This is true whether the crop is grown for whole cropping or going all the way to harvest.  

There are many key areas to think about when producing and are summarised for the following crops here:

Recent Relevant podcasts

Tillage Incentive Scheme - details

The Tillage Edge is joined by Ciaran Collins and Shay Phelan, both Teagasc tillage specialists, to discuss the new Tillage Incentive Scheme. The specialists also discuss areas to watch out for when ploughing grassland for tillage crops this year.

Shay points out that the scheme isn’t attractive to specialised tillage farmers on their own ground, as it is in tillage already. There are opportunities for tillage farmers to work with grassland farmers to produce crops. 

Ciaran points to the critical areas to consider before ploughing grassland. Ciaran said “Soil pH and P&K levels should be at a reasonable level before ploughing grassland in order to produce high yielding tillage crops”.

Reducing costs by using your own slurries

An excellent way to reduce your fertiliser costs is to utilise organic manure on your farm.  Cattle slurry is extremely valuable now with 1000 gallons equivalent to a bag of 9-5-32. Pig slurry will be slightly different with a typical value of available nutrients of around 14-5-15.  However for all slurries the amount of nutrients is determined by the dry matter content of the slurry. Measurement with hydrometer is recommended in all cases and incorporating into the soil as quickly as possible to prevent N loses. In this Tillage Edge podcast Cork farmer Tom Barry is interviewed. He has been using pig slurry on his farm for the past 20 years. Tom is now applying the slurry directly onto growing crops and is achieving a much higher utilisation from the slurry.