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Tillage Newsletter - March 2023

06 March 2023
Type Newsletter

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In this month's edition:

  • Winter cereals
    Fertiliser application will be the priority this month. There are large differentials in nitrogen (N) cost this season, depending on time of purchase and N type. Many farmers will opt for urea, as the current 33% price differential with CAN is difficult to ignore in a season of tight margins. Where phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) are required, the first N application will be in a compound fertiliser.
    • Spreading urea
      Urea is less dense than CAN, typically 75-80% of standard fertiliser, which makes it more difficult to spread evenly at wide bout widths. Think of applying the same force to a table tennis ball and a golf ball. Urea will also be more impacted by wind; therefore, good quality urea is essential when spreading at wide bout widths and it is essential that the fertiliser spreader is set up correctly for spreading urea.
    • Break-even ratio
      The break-even ratio (BER) is the point on a graph called the economic optimum rate, where the additional yield will not cover the cost of the N applied. The cost of N and the price of grain will dictate whether an adjustment to the optimum N rate is required or not.
    • P and K
      Recent soil test results and a nutrient management plan are essential to target fertiliser use. Recent changes to the Nitrates Directive mean a soil test report is required for every 5ha, otherwise there is no P allowance. P and K need to be applied to match offtakes but it may be uneconomic to apply P and K for build-up in 2023.
    • Winter barley
      Apply the first split of N at 50kg/ha in early March and apply the main split by GS31. On thin or backward crops, the first N can be earlier (start of growth) but application rate should be low as crop demand is also low. Sulphur (15kg/ha) and deficient trace elements (based on soil analysis and field history) should be applied before GS31.
    • Winter wheat
      There are a number of thin crops this season, so increase N rate at the first application to 75kg/ha for these crops, second wheat or where take-all is a risk. For crops with satisfactory plant counts apply 40-50kg/ha of N as the first split in mid March or by GS30.
    • Winter oats
      The first application of approximately 50% of the total N requirement should be applied by GS30 (early to mid March). Where no autumn herbicide has been applied treat with a sulfonylurea (Cameo Max/Ally Max) and a suitable partner to match the weed spectrum.
    • Winter oilseed rape
      There are large variations in green area index (GAI) in oilseed rape crops this season. There are large savings on N in crops with large canopies, so avoid early application and high-N rates, as excessive N will result in a reduction in yield.
  • Spring crops
    • Spring beans
      There is good interest in spring beans again this year due to the increased protein payment, favourable contract prices (€285), and increased fertiliser costs. The protein payment rate will depend on the area planted, but will be in the range of €350-€583/ha. Beans are more profitable than spring barley, but also increase profitability across the rotation.
    • Spring barley
      Consult the 2023 recommended list for variety characteristics. Seed rate should be calculated based on the TGW, which is normally printed on the bag. Sow 350 seeds/m² to establish 300 plants/m² in good conditions.
  • Health & Safety - Check gates and fences
    Are your fences stockproof along public roads? Animals getting onto roads is a major hazard to traffic with high potential for serious injury. The Animals Act 1985 places a strong duty on farmers to prevent stock from getting onto roads. March is an opportune time to check fencing along public roads ahead of turnout of stock.