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Tillage update - Stubble management and Cover Crops

Tillage specialist Shay Phelan gives a timely update on the current harvest situation. He also has information on stubble management and some tips to get the maximum benefit from cover crops. Catch up on this weeks The Tillage Edge Podcast.

Harvest update

In many areas most crops are harvested at this stage, with the dry weather making conditions for cutting and baling absolutely ideal. Crops like spring beans and spring oilseed rape are still a few weeks away yet, but almost everything else should be harvested by the middle of the month. Yields are reported to be above average even at low moistures, in fact most barley and wheat crops are being harvested at this stage below 15% moisture so a minimum amount of drying will be required.

It’s still a bit early to start sowing oilseed rape but by the end of next week many growers will be tempted. 

Stubble management

The new rules around stubble cultivations were published last week and at this stage everyone should be aware of the requirements. The relevant information is in this document on page 5

The stubble cultivation measure should be seen, not only as a way of trapping nutrients, but also a method of controlling problem weeds by “greening up the stubbles” i.e. making weeds germinate which can then be controlled with non-selective herbicides or a stale seed bed. However depending on the crop or the grass species some seeds need to be left on the soil surface in order to break dormancy e.g. oilseed rape, soft brome, wild oats while others such as sterile brome need to be covered to break dormancy. Cultivate to a maximum of 5cms to achieve best results. In the following video Jimmy Staples Teagasc Advisor on the ECT project demonstrates best stubble management practices to achieve grass weed control

Cover crops

Almost 30,000 ha of cover crops are grown in Ireland ever year. Some are grown as part of the GLAS scheme while others are grown for soil improvement and others are grown to feed livestock. No matter what the end use, to get the maximum amount of benefit from them there are a couple of tips that farmers should follow;

  1. know your rotation, the GLAS scheme contains a lot of brassica species which can have an impact on disease levels if oilseed rape is in the rotation. We have seen quite a bit of clubroot in crops in 2022
  2. Sow early i.e. Mid-August to capture the maximum of nutrients and growth.
  3. Use minimum cultivation techniques to drill and roll afterwards to maximise establishment
  4. If grazing place a source of roughage in the field after drilling this will save you bring it in in wet conditions.
  5. Watch the spend, some mixes can be expensive while cultivating too deep will also add to the cost.

In the attached video Fiona Doolan ASSAP advisor discusses how cover crops can trap nutrients and prevent them from leeching

The Tillage Edge Podcast 

The Tillage Edge chatted to Andy Mahon, who is a farm manager in North Bedfordshire in the UK. Andy, originally from Dublin, is almost finished the harvest already. Andy said this has been the earliest, and easiest harvest he has ever been involved in.

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.  Find your local Teagasc office here