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Darren Allen - June 2024

It’s been an extremely busy and challenging time for the team at Ballymaloe, both on and off the farm this year. We lost a third of the winter planted crops due to the relentless wet weather over the past year.

We have persevered with some and managed to save a few. I planted spring oats in a field where winter wheat failed and it’s looking very good considering.

I’m putting the T1 fungicide on my spring barley and oats as I write this article and it’s looking good from the tractor seat. I’ve been focussing this year on minimising costs on the farm and chasing better margins and profit. 

I’ve been trialling different establishment methods for myself along with more “regenerative” agriculture techniques. For example, this year I’m growing half my spring malting barley crop using “conventional” methods and the other half using “regenerative” methods.

The “conventional” spring malting barley field was ploughed, disced, one-passed and rolled, costing approx. €400/ha. The “regenerative” spring malting barley field was lightly cultivated, before disc drilling and rolling in, at a cost of approx. €180/ha – a significant difference. I’m growing the variety Planet in my “conventional” field and looks to have a fair bit of net-blotch at the moment.

The fertiliser programme was urea and a little farm yard manure. In my “regenerative” field I’m growing a variety called Mermaid, which is cleaner than the Planet. It received 3,000 gallons of slurry/acre along with approximately 50 units of N from the bag, a little K and three applications of homemade foliar feed, which contains melted urea among other things. 

I also decided not to use any aphicide on the crops this year. I try not to use it if at all possible now, only in emergency situations.

I’m also trialling different establishment methods with a combi-crop of beans and peas, i.e. conventional plough/one pass vs. direct drill (Weaving drill), which has some interesting differences so far.

The pea variety is Carrington and the bean variety is Louhi, planted at a rate of 100 seeds/m², in a ratio of 70 peas and 30 beans. The establishment in the conventionally planted crop was better this year at a rate of 90% compared to 77% establishment on average.

I’m also weighing up my options with regard to the final fungicide on the winter wheat. The weather around flowering time will dictate whether I apply one or not. The gate is closed on the winter oilseed rape and winter rye. 

We suffered heavy losses in these crops due to water-logged soils and the slightly later than ideal sowing dates didn’t help the situation either, but time will tell.

On the other side of the coin I’m dealing with the realities of the Ash Dieback disease which has decimated not only my commercial forestry but also the native ash trees that are widespread in our native woodlands and farm. 

The costs are eyewatering when you consider the dying native ash trees, which will have to be removed for safety reasons along the roads and around the farm, all at the farmers own cost.

I found it upsetting a few weeks ago to be have been offered the same price for my grain as we received all the way back in 2008, but to sign off on a happier note, I’m glad to see the grain markets improving at the moment.