The Dairygold Malting Barley Grower of the Year winner will be announced on Friday 26 February.

There are four finalists for the 2020 season from different regions.

While all are top of the pile with regards to malting barley quality, they are also working to improve their farm’s sustainability.

The O’Mearas

Patrick and Gerard O’Meara from outside Cahir, Co Tipperary, place a huge emphasis on rotation.

The spring malting barley crop follows fodder beet, while winter barley and winter oats or oilseed rape take the next slots.

Winter rye is also grown on the farm and used in animal feed.

The O’Mearas also have a beef enterprise on the farm and farmyard manure is spread on beet ground, while beet tops are grazed when conditions allow.

The beet is also used as part of the cattle’s winter finishing diet.

As well as reducing soil disturbance after the beet with a Horsch Joker, Phylgreen, a biostimulant produced from seaweed, is used to reduce and prevent stress in the spring barley crop, which generally yields around 3t to 3.6t/ac.

A bee keeper also keeps hives in the oilseed rape fields and rape straw is incorporated into the soil.

Martin Quinn

Martin Quinn from Minane Bridge farms winter and spring barley as his main crops and wheat or oats make up the remainder of the ground.

The south Cork finalist also has 36ac of forestry on his farm.

Martin has been maintaining spring barley yields at approximately 3.4t/ac in recent years.

However, this season, while happy with grain quality in the early part of the harvest, poor weather made it harder to hit malting standard.

Martin places a lot of emphasis on integrated pest management and minimising pesticide usage where possible.

Conscious of soil organic matter, he chops straw in poor-value years and also plants cover crops, usually fodder rape and leafy turnip.

Paying keen attention to wildlife, Martin trims the sides of his hedges every three years and bird boxes are also scattered around the farm.

David O’Gorman

David O’Gorman farms outside Castletownroche, Co Cork.

The 2020 malting barley crop hit an average yield of 3.2t/ac on the farm and David puts this down to a focus on soil health.

David O’Gorman of DGAS Agricultural Services represents north Cork in the Dairygold malting barley awards final

Regular soil sampling and a nutrient management plan ensure crops are getting the nutrients they need.

David uses Gatekeeper to record his pesticide usage.

A Duetz-Fahr 4065 harvests the crop and a local team bales and purchases straw.

David pays particular attention to wildlife and biodiversity on the farm, something which he likes to focus on for his young children to enjoy.

Robert Bateman

The east Cork finalist is Robert Bateman from outside Castlemartyr.

Temporary grassland and beans form part of the rotation on the farm, along with maize, which Robert grows for a local dairy farmer, who also takes silage from the temporary grass.

Robert Bateman ploughing down maize stubble

Slurry from the dairy farm is spread on the maize and grass, while farmyard manure is spread before the spring barley ground is ploughed.

This agreement is helping to improve soil fertility on Michael’s farm.

Fodder rape and leafy turnip are planted after the spring barley crop and Michael has also placed bird boxes around the farm to encourage wildlife numbers.