Michael chatted to us from the combine this week and commented that it was good to be starting the harvest. He had just begun cutting on Monday and was glad to be up and going, harvesting his friend’s winter barley.
Rain had hampered progress in Donegal at the weekend, but moisture was down to 15-16% by Monday. Michael’s own winter barley is not ready to be cut yet, with a lot of green in the headlands.
The crop of SY Vessel is destined for malting and needs the sunshine to bring it in.
So far, reports from around the country have not been good on yield, but are picking up as the harvest progresses.
Michael will use a 4m cultivator this year to cultivate stubbles under the new nitrates regulations, but thinks he will need to invest in a disc. He noted that the rules came in very quickly and are going to have to be implemented at a busy time of year.
He added that it will be challenging to get fields cleared and stubbles cultivated in seven days. If rain is thrown into the mix, it will become more difficult.
Already, the crops being cut need to be left down for a few days to dry before baling.
Looking at other crops, there was a small bit of rust on the oats, but not enough to take action and spring barley received its final fungicide, containing Siltra and Mirror (folpet), about three weeks ago when the awns were peeping. The awns are still standing upright in Michael’s spring barley, which is very clean, and the sunshine has come at the right time for the crop, he thinks.
Winter wheat is three to four week’s away and Michael is happy with how it looks at the minute. There was some Septoria in the crop at the head spray, but overall the crop looks clean and even.
Michael aims to put a catch crop in after his winter wheat to rejuvenate the field and he might allow some sheep in to graze the crop in the winter.
Séamus finished up his winter barley harvest on Thursday of last week and was glad to get finished before the heat as he was cutting at very low moisture contents of 14-15%.
His winter barley was grown for malting and samples returned showed protein contents of 9.3-10.6, KPH values of 67-71 and 1% screenings.
Grain quality was good and Faye, a trial variety, showed great KPH levels, but Séamus was disappointed with crop yields.
Crops looked good and clean all year, but he commented you never know until the combine goes into the field.
The Electrum barley is expected to be near 3t/ac, while SY Vessel is estimated to be hovering around 3t/ac, with the Faye maybe getting to 3.4t/ac. These crops are being stored in the shed built this year on-farm. The last screws were going in as the first load was tipped.
Séamus commented that in view of rising energy costs and the need to cut emissions, grain merchants and co-ops need to review moisture bonus and deduction systems and reward farmers cutting at low moisture contents.
Straw is moving off the field as quickly as it is being baled and €20/bale (4X4) is being secured easily. Séamus considers this to be a fair price, especially considering the value of phosphorus and potassium in the straw and the increase in diesel and net wrap prices. Straw yields are back at 11 bales/ac. He will chop 50-60ac of spring barley straw.
Séamus will plant catch crops into his winter barley ground. Some of this will be forage rape to allow animals to graze it. He is taking part in Diageo’s regenerative agriculture pilot.
Séamus is happy with his spring barley and peas mix, which will be harvested as whole crop in the coming weeks and fed to animals over the winter.
Spring barley is turning colour quickly. It looks to have a good canopy and good grain fill. Séamus does not think the hot weather is impacting it, while his beet crops are looking well.
Patrick Kehoe was cutting winter barley over the past few days and was trying to be cautious in the hot weather. When we spoke on Tuesday, the majority of the crop was fit to be cut. Patrick had spent a lot of time cleaning down the combine. He had extra water on board and had water on the headlands.
Much of his winter barley had been holding out very well and was slow enough to ripen. Patrick puts this down to the use of organic manures and cover crops on the farm, which are helping to retain moisture and keeping crops green for longer. Patrick did not have a handle on yields, but thinks he might average 4t/ac across his crops. The Joyau was doing particularly well on a field which received chicken litter, while some of the two-row barley was hit by barley yellow dwarf virus. Patrick did not have exact yields, but did have results on moisture content, which was at approximately 16% and KPH which was at 66.
Patrick started to build a triple axle trailer over lockdown and is now using it to draw grain. Air brakes were fitted and it’s working out well so far.
All of the straw on the winter barley will be chopped and Patrick aims to get cover crops planted next week. A mix of forage rape and stubble turnips will be planted and these will be grazed over the winter and springtime by some of Patrick’s sheep.
There is a lot of work to be done on the farm at present – making sure animals have enough water and shade as well as keeping the combine cleaned down and getting the winter barley harvest complete.
Spring barley looks well at the minute and again, Patrick thinks the organic manures and cover crops are helping the crop to deal with the hot weather as the soil is in good condition. One field of spring barley is after grass and it was treated with Terpal, which seems to have helped to keep the crop standing.
The spring beans are clean. They’ve received a lot of nutrition and seem to be OK for moisture.