Rain delays progress

Spring is slow to arrive with the odd nice day only acting as a teaser for what might be. Soil temperatures are edging up but still mainly below 8°C and too low to drive any surge in growth. Air temperatures are generally in the growth zone, but improving.

With most tillage areas now on over 40mm of rain for March so far, Johnstown Castle in Wexford stands out at over 84mm up to Tuesday morning. North Cork is high also but the midlands and north west are lower. With much of this rain falling in the past week, it is slowing access to land for planting.

Beans

While there seems to be a reluctance to grow beans, anyone having difficulty securing nitrogen currently should be aware of its benefits. So if you have land that is sufficiently high in pH with good fertility, beans should be considered.

The benefit of beans must be judged over two years because of following crop benefits. Higher yield potential, the option to grow a premium crop and lower nitrogen requirement add to profit potential within a rotation. If nitrogen continues to be expensive, this advantage is very valuable.

There is still time to get beans sown but March is preferable, if possible. Good rotations help overall cereal yields. A suitable field means pH close to 7, Index 3 for P and K and medium to heavy soils. Get some P and K into the seedbed where soil indices are lower.

Fertiliser

All winter crops should have received compound fertiliser by now based on recent soil test results. Soil pH is critical so a bit of granular lime could be more useful than that last 20% of nitrogen this year.

If you have difficulty getting all the nitrogen you require, get advice on how best to use what you have. Advice will be influenced by the crops you are growing, your rotation, soil fertility, yield potential in individual fields and the likely value of the different crops you are growing.

Where possible, combine drill some of the fertiliser for spring crops as it will provide better response from lower rates. It is useful to have some P and K close to or beside the seed to drive early growth.

Planting

Opportunities can open up quite quickly on lighter soils so have seed and fertiliser ready. The forecast looks good for the week ahead and some land could begin to dry up towards the end of this week.

Once we pass St Patrick’s Day it is important to have conditions right when planting. This may mean waiting a little longer to begin if the forecast looks good. Once the ground warms up it should dry out quicker.

Plant 500g beans at around 175 kg/ha to establish 30 seeds/m2 at 85% establishment. Drill 50g spring wheat seed at 165 kg/ha to establish 280 plants/m2, with the same seed rate for 45g barley to establish 320 seeds/m2 (all at 85% establishment). Target oats at about 130 kg/ha for 35g seed to establish 300 plants/m2 (80% establishment).