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Tillage Update - 10th September

Michael Hennessy, Head of Crops KT Teagasc gives an update on the harvest; planting oilseed rape; benefit of including organic manures into the farming system and gives an insight into this year's National Crops Forum. Listen to the latest Tillage Edge focusing on Markets and forward grain prices.

Harvest update

The harvest has been quite slow over the past week due to dull and humid days. Farmers forced to harvest at high grain moistures, further increasing costs. Issues such poor ground conditions, lodged crops, broken heads and lost grains are frequently encountered problems. Very little of the barley harvested in the last week is making malting grade. Currently it's estimated about 20% of the harvest is left to be completed however in some areas this may be closer to 40%. It will take at least four to five good drying days to complete harvesting however it will take longer to gather straw, with a large acreage currently on the ground. Farm advisors and growers fear a reasonable proportion of the straw may not be saved at all. Currently a growing number of farmers are choosing to chop the straw rather than trying to save it. 

Oilseed Rape

Attention on some farms this week has turned to planting oilseed rape. It’s likely the total area will be greatly reduced this year as harvest operations have taken priority on most farms. Although it's late for planting oilseed rape growers are banking on favourable weather through September and October to help the crop established and accumulating biomass before growth stops in November. Previous years has shown this as a risky strategy so all option should be left on the table in case of crop failure. There are now good herbicides options available for post emergency weed control in oilseed rape. With delayed plant, it’s more desirable to wait for a post emergence weed control to give maximum leeway if the crop does not establish properly and replanting becomes the only option.   

Organic Manures

There is no question every tillage farmer in Ireland should do whatever is reasonably feasible to include organic manures into the farming system. Organic manures increase soil carbon storage and promote nutrient stability, soil health and more importantly yield stability. Organic manures can be expensive to source and apply, not only in terms of financial cost but also in terms of time undertaken to spread the material.  However the medium and long-term benefits of including organic manures will make the practice worthwhile. 

Tillage farmers should target these applications over the coming weeks, where ground conditions allow, of low nitrogen organic manures. These include mushroom compost, farmyard manure and low dry matter cattle slurry. Organic manures such as poultry manure, pig slurry and high dry matter cattle slurries are unsuitable to be applied at this time of year as the available nitrogen in the slurries are very prone to leaching from the soil over the winter. This creates both a financial loss for the farmer and is environmentally destructive.   

Farmers may be aware farms in derogation must submit export forms for slurry movements earlier this year (expected to be by October 31st). In all cases tillage farmers should only agree to exports of slurry which actually arrived on to their farm.  

Markets and forward grain prices

On the Teagasc Tillage Edge podcast this week James Nolan, a grain trader from R&H Hall spoke about the cereal harvest around the world and what that means for Irish tillage producers. James noted overall tonnages were good with Russia experiencing a very large harvest at an estimated 83 million tonnes. This is currently the cheapest supply of wheat in the world. Closer to home the up to the middle of this year maize dictated the price of cereals in Ireland however given the current maize harvest (and yield  predictions) barley is now the main driver (with Britain aggressively exporting before Brexit). James said there were opportunities for farmers to sell forward during this year (wheat in the range €195/t) and added there will be opportunities in the next couple of months but grows should keep an eye on the price differential between barley and wheat. 

National Crops Forum

The first part of the National Crops Forum is taking place this today, Thursday September 10th at 6.30pm, as a webinar over zoom. The Forum will focus on new varieties, new BYDV tolerance and resistance in varieties and developing profitable rotation on farm. To register for the forum please click here 

And don’t forget the second part of the forum next Thursday, September 17th at 6:30pm. The forum will look at the Green Deal and Farm to Fork and also look forward to how the industry can be developed over the next number of years. To register for the forum please click here