From the Tramlines, Ireland’s leading weekly tillage series, returns for 2021.
Ireland’s tillage industry is diverse, spanning 31 counties north and south. Variations in weather, crops, markets, size, management approach and soil types means no two tillage farms are alike.
From the Tramlines aims to give readers on-the-ground updates directly from Ireland’s tillage fields across the country.
Over the coming 38 weeks, The Irish Farmers Journal tillage team will be following 12 of Ireland’s top growers from all around the island, looking at their management decisions and cropping progress.
10 new faces
This year we welcome back Tim Ronaldson from Kildare and Jonathan Kelly from Derry who took part in the programme in 2020. In addition, we welcome 10 new growers.
This year’s growers are producing a range of crops across several management systems and farm structures. Crops grown include cereals, legumes, brassicas, potatoes, beet and maize across various establishment systems including plough-based, minimum tillage and direct drilling.
We will follow the progress of all 12 farmers with weekly instalments in the paper along with videos, podcasts and technical webinars online.
Irish Farmers Journal weather
This year we have once again teamed up with French-based weather station manufacturer Sencrop to bring readers weather data from all 12 farms.
Over the coming weeks, 24 Windcrop and Raincrop weather stations will be installed on all 12 farms which will feed into our weekly coverage. Readers will be able to access live and historical weather data from these 12 locations, in addition to the 12 locations already on the network, on www.farmersjournal.ie/weather/.
James farms in Drumbuoy, Newtowncunningham, on the banks of the River Swilly. His gently sloping land is free-draining and tends to be early.
This year he is growing feed winter barley and spring malting barley. Normally he would also grow winter wheat and spring oilseed rape but couldn’t this year due to rotational reasons. Instead he will have potatoes in the rotation this season. The majority of his land base is owned but James rents ground on occasion. James runs a plough-based system but is open to trialling minimum tillage at some point in the future. He also keeps a small number of sheep on grassland and does a small amount of contract work.
During busy periods James’s son Jamie helps out on the farm.
Tim returns for his second year in the series. Tim farms with his son Mark in Ballymore Eustace, close to Naas across 900ac. About 250ac of this is owned, 350ac is contract-farmed while the remainder is leased or is under conacre.
As well as growing winter wheat, winter and spring barley, winter oats and spring beans he also produces around 1,000 bales of hay annually for sale to farmers and stud farms.
Soil types vary from sandy to medium and heavy loam. Depending on the land and farm, he either uses a plough and one-pass establishment system or a direct drill system using his Claydon drill. Tim also grows cover crops on the farm which are grazed by neighbouring sheep farmers. However, establishment of 2020’s crop was poor.
Con farms in partnership with his two nephews James and Padraig in Clondouglas, Lixnaw. They run a mixed tillage and dairy enterprise.
Con grows a diverse range of crops including winter hybrid rye and wheat, spring barley, oats and wheat, maize and grass across 1,100ac.
Most of the crops are either whole-cropped or crimped and stored in clamps for livestock feed. This allows fields to be harvested earlier, which suits the Kerry climate. He uses slurry and farmyard manure to ensure soil fertility is maintained. Soil types are mixed so he runs a plough-based system.
Around 30% of the land base is rented and some of his farm is quite fragmented.
An amount of spring barley grain is harvested and sold for feed to Crecora Mills and Kerry Agribusiness.
Iain farms alongside his neighbour and business partner John Gill in Killough, Downpatrick. They farm under a limited company, Rossglass Haylage Ltd, which was formed in 2006. Together they run a busy tillage farm and also produce haylage for sale to the equine industry across owned and share-farmed land.
This year they are growing winter wheat and barley as well as spring wheat and spring beans for feed.
All barley is dried using an underfloor drying system and sold to pig farms. They also grow winter oilseed rape as well as porridge spring oats for Whites Oats. They run a 10-year rotation and have potatoes in the mix on the share-farmed land.
Soil types vary, from stony clay subsoil to silty and sandy clay loam. Crops are established using a minimum tillage system with a Claydon drill.
Padraig grows a range of combinable crops alongside his father Patrick in Ballagh, Enniscorthy. This year he is growing winter hybrid rye, winter wheat and oats, spring beans and spring malting barley. He was unable to get winter oilseed rape planted this year as he couldn’t bale and clear fields on time. His winter wheat is sown for both seed and feed. His winter oats are grown for the gluten-free and equine market. He has been using a minimum tillage system across his various soil types for over 10 years. Around 70% of his land base is owned with the rest rented. Padraig imports slurry and regularly grows cover crops. He is also a member of the Teagasc tillage discussion group and in 2018, won Boortmalt malting barley grower of the year.
Jonathan also returns for a second year. His farm, located in Bellarena just outside Limavady, caught the attention of many readers last year due to his sandy, very dry soils which are uncharacteristic for the northwest.
Jonathan farms in partnership with his father Cecil across 750ac, having moved from a predominantly livestock enterprise to tillage.
He grows winter wheat and barley, winter hybrid rye, spring barley and maize. The rye and maize are grown for two anaerobic digestion plants in the region.
This year Jonathan plans to grow spring beans due to the new pilot Protein Crops Payment Scheme in Northern Ireland.
He runs a plough-based system and uses multiple sources of organic matter on his land including slurry, chicken litter, digestate and compost.
Norman farms alongside his father Michael in Kilgraigue, Meath. His farm straddles the border with Maynooth. He grows winter barley and wheat and spring oats, barley and beans. He is also considering growing linseed or spring oilseed rape this year. Grain is dried and stored on site before being sold for feed.
His soil type can be described as heavy clay loam with Ashbourne series soil scattered throughout. Norman runs a predominantly direct-drill system but will cultivate when required. His land hasn’t been ploughed since 2018.
He grows cover crops and has access to compost produced from his own straw.
Most of his tillage land is owned while his grassland is rented. Norman is a committee member of BASE Ireland and is involved with the Danú Farming Group.
John farms in partnership with his brother Denis in Carrigoon, just outside Mallow. The farm was developed over the years by his late father Denis who passed away last year. They grow winter barley, wheat, oats, spring beans and spring barley. All of the grain is dried and stored on farm and sold to Southern Milling and local pig farms.
They cover around 1,200ac, around half of which is in winter barley. They complete the majority of the tillage fieldwork themselves but hire a contractor in to help with the harvest. Most of their land is relatively light and dry. They run a plough-based system and spread pig slurry on 75% of the land base annually. Straw is an important part of their business and they have a large customer base.
Seamus runs a mixed tillage and livestock farm enterprise in Lakefield, Durrow. His land is light, free-draining and very well suited to growing spring barley. Until this year, most of his cereal area was sown under spring barley. However, this year he is growing winter malting barley for the first time, aiming to make distilling grade. He is growing both spring malting barley and spring barley for seed. He grows malting barley for Boortmalt and Waterford Distillery.
Seamus also grows around 50ac of fodder beet each year. He runs a plough-based system and around 50% of his land base is owned with the remainder rented and share-farmed. He is also a member of the Talamh Nua discussion group and the IFA malting barley committee.
Thomas farms outside Cahir in Tipperary alongside his father Tom. After completing a degree in Agriculture, he returned home in 2014 to farm full time.
He grows a number feed and food crops including winter barley and wheat, winter oats for Flahavan’s and spring malting barley for Dairygold. This year Thomas is growing 15ac of winter hybrid rye as a trial. He will harvest the grain and if successful, he hopes to increase the area and extend the rotation.
His land is mostly free-draining limestone ground so dryness can be an issue at times. Around half of his land base is rented.
He runs a plough-based system, grows cover crops ahead of spring crops and imports slurry and manure. Thomas is a member of the longstanding Survivors discussion group.
Brendan runs a busy tillage farm in Oberstown, Ardee. Across 1,000ac, he grows winter wheat, barley, oats, winter oilseed rape and spring barley and potatoes. All combinable crops are grown for feed and sold to various merchants.
He grows around 130ac of ware potatoes which are sold to various packers and peelers. Brendan has around 3,000t of cold storage capacity on his farm.
He has also converted an old potato store into a grain drying and storage shed with underfloor ventilation. He also uses pedestals to circulate air through the grain.
Around 35% of the farmed land is owned and he uses a plough-based system.
Soil types range from medium to dry, light ground. He grows cover crops as part of GLAS and ahead of potatoes.
Michael farms alongside his nephew Ciaran in Carnua, Athenry. The pair run a cereal and potato business, finish beef cattle and keep Galway ewes. They grow winter and spring barley and oats across 100ac. The grain is supplied to local merchants and farmers and used on their farm. They grow around 50ac of ware potatoes each year, selling to local shops and supermarkets.
Potatoes are graded and stored on site in their two 200t cold stores. They are actively exploring ways to add further value to their potato crop. They run a plough-based system across sandy and clay soils. Around 60% of the land base is owned with the rest rented. Ciaran completed a Level 8 degree in Agriculture in 2015 and spent some time working in the Farm Relief Service.