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Tillage Update - 27th August

Shay Phelan, Teagasc Crops Specialist gives an update on the harvest; tips to help avoid soil damage, particularly after bad weather; advice on how to increase harvest output & crop planning for 2021. Listen to the latest The Tillage Edge Podcast for an update on the harvest in the Midlands & South.

Harvest progress

Storm Francis has again halted harvesting throughout the country and the strong winds have led to grains and heads being lost onto the ground resulting in significant loss in yield. Teagasc have conducted a survey of advisors this week to establish the harvest progress and overall less than half of the 140,000ha of spring barley is harvested while an estimated 30% winter wheat has been harvested at this stage. The North East is hardest hit where traditional winter cereals were replaced by later maturing spring crops due to wet weather last autumn.

What is now noticeable is that ground conditions have deteriorated considerably after the rains on Tuesday with more forecast. This may lead to trouble in soft areas with increased possibility of machines becoming stuck and or significant damage to soil structure. Consider the following tips that may help to avoid soil damage;

  1. Don’t let the grain tank on the combine become 100% full – empty when the tank is 75% full especially when grain moisture is above 20%.
  2. Don’t fill trailers to the maximum weight.
  3. If side filling, only put one or two tanks into the trailer or chaser bin. Top off the trailer when it is parked on a tramline.
  4. Tractors and trailers should be confined to tramlines where possible.
  5. Walk crops where you suspect water may lie to see if these areas are trafficable.
  6. Only fit dual wheels to combines as a last resort. Wait if possible for the field to dry before harvesting.
  7. Don’t cut suspect areas at night
  8. Use bale chasers to collect straw where available.
  9. Don’t row up bales to load onto a trailer – the loader will travel over the same area of ground a number of times increasing compaction in that area.
  10. Don’t allow trucks into fields

Consider the following to increase harvest output;

  1. Develop a harvest plan - badly lodged crops will be slow to cut and delay harvesting of other crops. Decide which you want to harvest first.
  2. Where there are multiple fields together cut headlands on all fields first, this may allow you to stay harvesting later in the evening or to start earlier in the morning.
  3. Chop the straw on headlands, especially if there are lots of green shoots, this will speed up the baling process.
  4. Contact other growers who may be finished to see if they bring in another combine, trailer or baler.

Crop planning

While the wet days can be used for rest and maintenance they can also be used for planning for harvest 2021. Many growers who have a spread of crops have most of their harvest complete at this stage without much stress. Others who have a large area of any single crop have put extra pressure on labour and machinery. Crops like winter oats, beans and oilseed rape are harvested at different times to wheat and barley crops and can help spread the workload. They also offer rotation benefits such as disease breaks, additional yield in subsequent crops etc. Premiums, forward prices and contracts are available on some of these crops which can make them more attractive financially. With the harvest likely to run well into September for many growers, time after harvest may be scarce to develop plans, so use these wet days wisely.

The Tillage Edge Podcast - Harvest Update from the Midlands and South

In this week’s podcast we chat about the harvest so far from the midlands and the south of the country. John Kelly, Teagasc Offaly told the Tillage Edge podcast there are a lot of difficulties this year with low yields of both grain and straw but there are emerging problems of lodged crops and grain loss. The position is worse in the south with winter wheat shedding heads and grain resulting substantial grain loss. Michael McCarthy Teagasc Cork told me that, similar to the midlands, spring barley is struggling to pass as malting barley with only about 50% is expected to pass now. Another concern emerging, following all the rain, is the deteriorating ground conditions. It is a difficult harvest all round!