Could we see rye back in Irish fields?
Rye grain was a listed ingredient for Jameson Whiskey back in the late 1800s and it may be about to come back onto the ingredients list again.

News of a potential new crop, or new crop use, is always welcome in the Irish tillage sector and Irish Distillers may shortly add rye to our on-farm options.

Don McLean’s 1971 song, American Pie, had a line that went: “And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n’ rye,” but I doubt that this was inspired by John Jameson’s activities 100 years earlier.

However, a current initiative by Irish Distillers is heavily influenced by the Jameson archives.

It seems that John Jameson II was a good man to write things down and his records recall many of his thoughts about making whiskey at that time.

All Irish whiskeys have enjoyed considerable growth in export markets over the past decade, but continuous innovation is required to keep this happening. In an effort to continue to excite the palate of ever-curious consumers, Irish Distillers recently introduced Jameson Caskmates, which might best be described as a craft beer-influenced whiskey.

This venture resulted from a partnership between themselves and the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork.

This involved the unusual practice of leaving stout to mature in used oak whiskey casks, followed by whiskey next time around.

Each was infused with flavours and aromas from the previous and both appear to be attractive to consumers.

The rye mash

Carol Quinn is the archivist in Midleton Distillery and a few years ago she found a whiskey mash bill which used rye as a raw material in the handwritten notebook of John Jameson II.

A mash bill is basically a recipe of ingredients and procedure for making a whiskey. This record appears to be from the late 1890s and rye was relatively common back then – widely used for straw for thatching.

The conversation that followed asked if this rye-based whiskey could be repeated? It is not known if this was actually produced or if it was successful at the time but it was decided to try to produce the original mashes. Innovation remains essential – even in a primarily traditional drinks industry.

Further exploration of the archives revealed that Andrew Jameson – a son of the founder whose wife had 16 children – had established a distillery in Fairfield, near Enniscorthy, in the 1820s. This helped trigger the decision to attempt to try to produce a rye whiskey and it was decided to grow it in the Enniscorthy area. Rye whiskey is not a novel concept and it is widely produced in other areas of the world, especially in the US where it must be distilled from at least 51% rye.

Paul Wickham from Irish Distillers explained this history to me and told me that about 160 acres of winter rye is now being grown for the project. This is mainly of the variety Brasetto (a Canadian Distilling type), but there is also about 15% Magnifico. This is being grown and handled by Cooney Furlong Ltd and will then be sent to Midleton for distilling.

It is envisaged that rye will be a significant component of the mash but the exact information is sensitive. While this is very much on a look-see basis, it could become a modest market for Irish product if it proves to be successful commercially.

At Midleton, the rye will be ground, and mixed with a proportion of malt to provide the necessary enzymes for the conversion of starch to alcohol. The resultant spirit will be put in oak barrels and left to mature for at least three years.

This maturation process adds flavour and colour to the initially clear spirit. The length of time in storage will be decided by continuous checks conducted during the storage period.

Asked what differences can be expected, Paul stated that the addition of rye normally adds boldness and spice flavours. Such a change might provide novelty for existing customers or perhaps even bring new audiences.

Watch: From the Tramlines - winter wheat due T1 spray
This week we talk to growers from Antrim, Kilkenny and Kildare. All of this week’s growers missed the worst of the recent rain and spring work continues to progress. Stephen Robb writes.

Mark McCurdy

Bushmills, Co Antrim

The north has enjoyed the best of the weather over the past week, with just 7mm falling on Mark’s farm since Friday last (12 April). This has allowed potato planting to recommence and last week, Mark finished planting the last of his chitted Queen and Kerr’s Pink seed. Last weekend he began planting some of his main crop varieties, Navan and Piper.

While ground was in good condition, it was somewhat slow to adequately dry for ground preparation. The seed was either home saved or sourced locally and was dressed with Maxim. He uses a Grimme GB32 to plant normal seed from the cold store. Going well, he can plant up to 10ac in one day. He’s applying Amistar (2.5l/ha) in-furrow for Rhizoctonia control. When planting, he applies around 1t/ha of 8:24:24 (8:10:20 N,P,K). At around 30% through with planting, he has another two weeks of planting ahead. A few frosty nights last week appears to have checked his emerging early potatoes although Mark is confident that they will soon grow out of it.

Mark McCurdy working late into the night, preparing ground with a Deutz 6160 and Kuhn rotavator and a Same 160 with Amazone power harrow.

Mark began sowing spring cereals this week. Ground was first ploughed and rotavated with a Deutz 6160 and Kuhn rotavator and a Same 160 with Amazone power harrow before drilling with a one pass. This year he’s sowing with a Amazone AD303 super. He recently upgraded his drill from a Sulky box drill due to increased hopper capacity. The drill came in from Scotland and is in great condition.

Mark McCurdy working late into the night, preparing ground with a Deutz 6160 and Kuhn rotavator and a Same 160 with Amazone power harrow.

He sowed Westminster and Tomahawk spring barley at 188 kg/ha. The crop will be rolled after and will also receive 370kg/ha of 14:14:18 (14:6:15) shortly after sowing. The crop will be brought up to 125 kg N/ha. His winter barley is looking well and two weeks ago received its first split of nitrogen (60kg N/ha) plus sulphur. The crop will be brought up to 150 kg N/ha. Mark will apply the crop’s T1 this week consisting of Proline (0.4l/ha), Conrad (1.25l/ha), Moddus (0.25l/ha) and the manganese trace element spray Kingflow (0.63l/ha).

James O’Reilly

Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny

With around 28mm of rain in north Kilkenny over the past week, James escaped the worst. Parts of south Kilkenny recorded over 70mm since Friday last. Conditions for work over the past month have been excellent. His Quadra and Belfry hybrid winter barely received its final split of N last week and is has been brought up to 175kg N/ha. He applied nitrogen in three splits, 25%, 50% and 25% between late February and early April.

James spraying a T1 on winter wheat with his Horsch Leeb 6 LT sprayer with Sencrop weather stations in the background.

Now at strong GS 37, the crop will receive its T2 when the third last leaf is fully out. So far the crop has received Moddus (0.2l/ha), CCC (1.0l/ha), Jenton (0.5l/ha) and Modem (0.15l/ha) at a cost of around €6.4/ac. James monitors fungicide spend closely, and only gives the crop what it needs. To do this, he walks all of his crops every week without fail and assesses disease levels and crop condition. For hybrid winter barley, he aims to keep the fungicide spend under €30/ac plus VAT.

Overall, his fungicide spend is likely to be higher this year on account of an increase in the price of cholorothanoil based products. His Husky winter oats received their final split of N two weeks ago. Applying a 50:50 split, he aims to have all the nitrogen out by GS32.

The crop has been brought up to 137kg N/ha. The crop also received its T2 of Moddus (0.2l/ha) and CCC (1.0l/ha) as well as Jenton (0.5l/ha), Modem (0.15l/ha and Verdicrop manganese sulphate (1.5kg/ha). The crop was slightly scorched after however due to the frosty nights. Last week, his Graham, JB Diego and Costello winter wheat received its main split of nitrogen and has been brought up to 160 kg N/ha. At GS32, the crop is due its T1 application. His Extrovert and Aquila winter oilseed rape is 90% in flower and next week will receive a half rate of a boscalid based product for scleotinia. In March, James took delivery of the first Yara ALS2 nitrogen sensor in Ireland. We visited him earlier in the month to see the new sensors in action. Watch the full video online.

Andrew Bergin

Athy, Co Kildare

With soil moistures of around 26% on Andrew’s farm last week, the 12mm of rain that fell since Friday last in Athy were welcomed. With gusts reaching over 50km/hr over the weekend however, there was little opportunity for spraying and spreading. Andrew’s spring sowing campaign drew to a conclusion on 11 April, having completed the last of his Limona spring barley crop for seed. The crop was sown at 180kg/ha. The seed was dressed with a manganese and phosphate dressing.

Before sowing, he broadcast around 200kg/ha of 10:10:20 onto the seed bed. He then applied 80l/ha of 7:8:1 liquid starter fertiliser into the seedbed when sowing with his Horsch Simba 4Co and Fendt 818. His Planet malting barley, which was sown at the end of March, also received 100 kg/ha of CAN at the start of April. It’s due to be topped up this week to bring the crop up to 130kg N/ha. His earliest sown malting barley has received all of its nitrogen. Some of this crop has received 1.0l/ha of seaweed which was sown with the starter fertiliser. He’s also trying a mycorrhizal seed dressing on a small amount of crops.

Andrew Bergin sowing the last of his Limona Spring barley for seed with his Horsch Simba 4Co and Fendt 818.

Andrew is approaching his spring crop nitrogen strategy with caution as he is less than sure of amount of nitrogen left in the soils after last year. The crops will receive Galaxy or Cameo Max depending on the field and trace elements when temperatures increase. Andrew also sowed Venture spring peas at the end of March at 150kg/ha and received a pre-emerge spray of Stomp Aqua (2.75l/ha).

There appears to be small amounts of BYDV present in his winter barley. Two weeks ago they received a T1 of K2 (1.0l/ha), Tallius (0.2l/ha), Jenton (0.45l/ha) and Zephyr (0.55l/ha). The crop is somewhat perished looking on account of the cold weather. This week it will be brought up 185kg N/ha. His winter wheat will receive its T1 this week and has been brought up to 190kg N/ha. His winter oats have been brought up to 138kg N/ha.

Read more

Watch: first of Yara’s new ALS2 nitrogen sensors in action in Kilkenny

Watch: finishing spring barley sowing

From the tramlines: sowing under way in north, finished in the south

Watch: finishing spring barley sowing
Watch as Kildare From the Tramlines farmer Andrew Bergin finishes his spring sowing campaign in super conditions.

Last week we caught up with Kildare From the Tramlines farmer Andrew Bergin. Like most tillage farmers, spring cereal planting has now drawn to a close.

Andrew was sowing the last of his Limona seed spring barley crop just outside Newbridge when we visited him.

The crop was sown at 180kg/ha and the seed had a TGW of 48g. He is aiming for a plant stand of around 300 plants/m2.

Ground conditions at the time of planting were very dry, so a small amount of moisture will not do the crop or the ground any harm.


He uses Horsch Simba 4Co and Fendt 818 to drill directly into the ground. The air seeder is equipped with tines and can drill at reasonably high speeds.

However, as reported previously, trash can sometimes build up on the tines, which was a particular problem in 2018.

Before sowing, he broadcast around 200kg/ha of 10:10:20 on to the seed bed.

He then applied 80l/ha of 7:8:1 liquid starter fertiliser into seedbed when sowing. The field will be rolled after sowing.

Read all about Andrews’s spring sowing campaign in this week's From the Tramlines.

Watch the video below

Read more

Listen: tillage farmers' views on CAP

Watch: John Deere 750A no-till drill in action in North Cork

Watch: TAMS helping to make the switch to GPS
Stephen Robb visits Kildare-based farmer Bart Maertens who upgraded his sprayer and fertiliser spreader through TAMS.

For those who have availed of the TAMS II Tillage Capital Investment Scheme, it has contributed significantly to their business. In many cases, the grant aid facilitated the upgrading of existing machinery and marked the transition into precision agriculture.

Kildare-based potato and grain farmer Bart Maertens is an example of this.

Before the introduction of the grant, the only GPS equipment which Bart owned was a basic light bar guidance system.

Over the past two years, however, he has upgraded both his sprayer and his fertiliser spreader with the help of the €32,000 grand aid available under TAMS.

GPS Amazone sprayer

As the sprayer plays a vital role in potato and cereal production, Bart has a policy of changing the machine every 10 years.

As his previous Hardi sprayer was up for renewal back in 2017, applying for the TAMS grant was a simple choice.

After looking at several models such as John Deere and Knight, he settled on a trailed Amazone UK4200 special sprayer with 450l wash tank.

Operating a 3m seed drill, he opted for a sprayer width of 27m, up from his previous 24m working width.

The sprayer was GPS ready and Amazone also supplied the Amatron 3 control box and GPS receiver. The receiver uses the EGNOS satellite system which uses eight satellites to generate an accuracy of 10cm.

Each of the 54 nozzles can be shut off individually.

He opted for individual nozzle shut-off instead of an 11-section shut-off.

The 54 individual nozzle control allows him to easily shut off nozzles on headlands and corners to account for over laps in the seed drill.

“It’s been super accurate, we don’t see any overlapping anymore,” he says.

Under the Department of Agriculture’s reference costs, the cost of a trailed sprayer with GPS control is calculated by multiplying the capacity of the sprayer by 11.207 and adding 14,499.

Bogballe spreader

After seeing how accurate the sprayer was, in 2018 he opted to upgrade the fertiliser spreader to a GPS-equipped model. Previously, he ran a Lely Centerliner for almost 20 years which had no GPS capabilities. He upgraded to a M35W Bogballe spreader with 3t capacity.

Self-calibrating and equipped with weigh cells, the spreader’s GPS section control is run off a Topcon GPS receiver. The remainder of the TAMS grant covered around 35% of the cost of the new spreader. With two people spreading, the spreader is capable of spreading up to 300ac per day or 50t.

Bart Maertens' M35W Bogballe spreader.

Under the Department of Agriculture’s reference costs, the cost of a mounted spreader with GPS control is calculated by multiplying the capacity of the spreader (in litres) by 1.06 and adding 17,600.

He has also recently upgraded his sowing tractor which is now capable of running on full RTK autosteer with an accuracy of 2cm, although this wasn’t through TAMS.

TAMS grant aid

“I definitely think we’re making savings with the GPS fertiliser spreader in the ins, outs and corners of fields,” Bart says.

He feels that the TAMS grant aid has helped modernise the farm. While he may have changed the spreader and sprayer regardless of the grant, he is less than sure if he would have opted to include GPS technology.

Bart Maertens..

Bart Maertens' Amazone UK4200 special sprayer.

Amatron 3 control box for his sprayer.

Bart Maertens' M35W Bogballe spreader.

His new sowing tractor is also GPS-enabled.