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Tillage Update August 13th

In this week's Tillage Update, Shay Phelan gives an update on spring barley and winter wheat harvest. Shay also gives advice on stubble management, an area of increasing interest on tillage farms. Finally, Shay gives advice on cover crops and their benefits to tillage farmers.

Harvest update

Most growers are now harvesting spring barley or winter wheat. Winter barley, winter oats and winter oilseed rape are harvested on most farms with normal cereal yields being recorded in the south but the effects of the drought have reduced yields in the northern half of the country. Winter oilseed rape yields don’t seem to have impacted by the drought with many growers achieving yields of 5t/ha or more. Many growers are complaining that secondary growth in spring cereals is proving difficult to manage especially in malting barley or seed crops, these secondary tillers are increasing grain moisture and protein levels and also making cutting and straw baling more difficult. Yields are expected to follow the same trends as the winter barley with the drought affected areas again having lower yields. Straw yields are back by nearly 50% in many areas although this, as of yet, does not seem to have had an impact on the market.

Stubble management

One of the areas of increasing interest on tillage farms is the post-harvest stubble management, whether to establish cover crops or where it is used to control problematic grass weeds. Once straw has been removed growers often cultivate stubbles straight away in order to get them to “green up” i.e. make weeds germinate. 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 form 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
  2. Sow early i.e. Mid to late 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 into rivers and streams.


In this week’s Tillage edge Ciaran Collins discusses winter oilseed rape as an option for tillage farmers. Ciaran discusses the performance of the crop this harvest, the benefits of having break crops in the rotation and the early crop management including variety choice, drilling and weed control. Finally Ciaran looks at the profitability of winter oilseed rape compared to cereal crops.

Listen to it here