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Update from Tom Tierney, Signpost Programme Tillage Farmer

Ivan Whitten, Teagasc Tillage Advisor, Naas caught up recently with Tom Tierney, Ballinafagh, prosperous, Kildare on how the harvest went and autumn fieldwork progress to date on the farm.

Tom farms on heavy soils and grows a combination of winter and spring cereals with spring beans and winter oilseed rape.  Tom describes the ease with the harvest in 2022 due to exceptional weather conditions but the take- all and BYDV were very prevalent in early drill crops due to the good sowing conditions in 2021 and the kindness in which crops were established during autumn 2021. However, all things being equal Tom believes his diverse cropping programme helped him spread the risk and build reliance into his regenerative farming business.

The Highs and Lows

Winter barley was a mix of Infinity and Valerie, yielding 9.1 t/ha (3.7 t/ac) and the crop received a total of 161 kg N/has applied as follows - 125kg/ha (100units/ac) of SulCAN plus four applications of 9kg N/ha (7 units/ac) of liquid foliar urea (melted 46% urea).  No P and K applied based on a recent soil test results.  To improve crop N efficiency Tom applies the majority of nitorgen as solid fertiliser and applies regular applications of foliar urea targeted at the plant during the growing season to supply regular N supply and reduce potential N losses as run-off, leaching or volatilization.  There was 12 bales/ac of golden barley straw were promptly removed by local livestock farmers in preparation of this year’s winter oilseed rape crop of DK Exstar, companion crop mix and Starter Fertiliser applied.  Volunteer barley and brome grasses recently controlled with 0.8L/ha of Centurian Max with Astro Kerb planned when the soils cool down.

Distilling Malting Barley achieved a yield of 6.7t/ha (2.7 t/ac) from 88 kg N/ha (70 units/ac) as Sulcan, P and K was supplied as 0-7-30 at 250 kg/ha (2 bags/ac) applied at sowing time. The crop received two foliar applications at 9kg N/ha as foliar urea (melted urea).  A crop of feed spring barley sown on fresher ground yielded 8.4t/ha (3.4 t/ac) on a similar N programme.

No Fungicide Astronomer and Graham Winter Wheat

There is a large focus on IPM on the farm and over the last 2 years, with the aim of reducing crop fungicide load.  Tom has monitored crops intensively (winter & spring wheat) for foliar diseases and eliminated fungicides at key timings.  In 2022, a field of winter wheat was selected to experiment with, this crop remained very clean throughout the season despite high levels of disease been reported on wheats elsewhere. This crop yielded surprisingly well at 10.4t/ha (4.2 t/ ac) at 13.2% and no growth regulators.  The crop received three applications of a combination of silica, Tri Kelp and mixtures of Magnesium, Calcium and Boron to enhance plant tolerance to disease by strengthening cell walls and preventing disease infection.  The crop received a total of 161kgN/ha applied as 125kg N/ha (100 units/ac) of SulCAN plus and four applications of 9kg N/ha (7 units/ac) liquid foliar urea (melted urea).

Break Crops on the Farm

Husky winter oats varied from 7.1 to 9.6t/ha (2.9-3.9 t/ac) grown on 112kgN/ha (90 units/ac) of Sulcan and 9kg N/ha (7 units/ac) as foliar urea. 

Spring beans yielded 6.7t/ha (2.7 t/.ac) at 19% while winter oilseed rape grown with companion crops yielded 1.7t/ha (0.7t/ac) at 7.5% moisture.  There was a large slug pressure and grazing in this crop.

First Wheats

Mustard Seed was direct drilled into the winter oilseed rape (WOSR) stubble at the end of August as a trial.  Winter wheat variety Conros was direct drilled after the WOSR and Round up Flex was applied 48 hours after to control brassicas covers.  Grass weeds will be treated with Allister and Boxer planned towards the end of November.

Oilseed rape, beans, winter wheat, spring barley and oaten straw chopped under the straw incorporation scheme and incorporated by shallow discing to build soil Carbon and replenish potassium off takes on owned and leased lands. 

Pollinator Plan Kildare

Toms a keen fan of this EIP with seven acres maintained as a wild flower meadow.  Yellow Rattle was collected in the locality and direct drilled to increase the diversity of species grown within the field.

The Future

Tom will continue to look at options to build and improve soil health and quality through organic manures, direct drilling, straw chopping and rotational cropping.  However, this combination with the regular use of cover cropping will help build the soils biology and resilience over time.