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Tillage Update - 9th September 2021

Planning for next years crops is well under way on all farms. This planning process should include how these crops are managed through the year. Michael Hennessy, Head of Crop Knowledge Transfer Department gives an overview of factors which need to considered.

Crop rotation

Getting your rotation correct is the corner stone to all good tillage farmingYear on year farmers report up to 1.5 t/ha more grain from fields after break crops. A variety of crops helps spread workload through the year (fertiliser application and spraying) and especially at harvest.  Diversity of crops changes planting dates and gives a change to control weeds more effectively by cultural and chemical means.

Soil test results

Don’t plant without consulting your soil results. Where fields are low lime apply this immediately. Where the fields are low in P and K a small application of P and K to the stubble/seedbed (but must be applied to by September 15th) will help growth over winter.

Range of varieties for crop types

Where the acreage is large for any one crop choosing varieties with varied characteristics will help overall management. The obvious one is harvest date, varieties may be 3-4 days earlier/later to ripen than the average, standing ability should be matched to soil type/field potential, disease resistance – sighting the more problematic crops nearer to home base, etc.

Premium crops

Include crop with a premium into the crop mix, if you can, to boost overall productivity.

Time of planting

The balancing act of planting late enough to avoid the heavy pressure of grass weeds and BYDV versus getting planted if the weather breaks and also compromising yields if planting late. On balance be sensible and don’t try to plant it all at once and target planting heavier land first.

Re emergence herbicides

For winter wheat, barley and rye, re emergence herbicides play a critical role and are worth looking in almost all circumstances. This decision will be helped enormously with a knowledge of the dominant weeds year on year in the field. Sequencing the spraying with planting can be difficult especially where labour is short.

Plant establishment

Your records will give you a guide of the typical plant establishment in fieds/areas of fields. This will determine how much seed to order. The quantity should be determined by seeds planted per meter squared not how many stones per acre. Typically a target seed rates for winter barley sown in late September is 270 plants/m2, for winter wheat 250 plants/m2 and winter oats its 300 plants/m2 (all at 80-85% establishment).

Plan ahead

Make it a priority to get your rotation completed and then order seeds needed. Try to have at least 80% of the seed on hand which will help especially if the window for planting is narrow.

The Tillage Edge Podcast

Hedgerows are a very important resource within our landscape but over-management is an issue on tillage farms. On this week's episode of The Tillage Edge podcast, Catherine Keena, Countryside Management Specialist, Teagasc discusses how best to manage hedges for your farm productivity but also for wildlife. 

Catherine encourages farmers to leave some of the hedgerows unmanaged each year to let plants flower which is good for pollinators, and the resulting fruit, which provides vital food for wildlife through the year. She also highlights the number of bee species which use hedgerows throughout the year and explained how there are over fifty-five species of birds which nest in hedgerows each year.

Find out more information and advice from the Teagasc Crops team here. The Teagasc Crops Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to tillage farmers every Thursday on Teagasc Daily