Planting is starting to wrap up in Laois, but John Joe says that the start of the irrigation season isn’t too far away, and the pipes will be laid out next week.

The organic winter oats are quite strong and are growing well. The same can be said for the spring oats. John Joe blind weeded the spring oats two weeks ago, and it seems to have worked quite well. The crop is now into tillering.

The organic spring beans established well and have a good plant stand. John Joe weeded these with the tine weeder last week. While the tractor tyres will obviously do some damage to the crop, he says the beans will usually stand up again after a few days. John Joe notes that weed pressure is high in a vegetable rotation, so the risk of damage to the plants has to be taken or the weeds will overcome the crop.

Conventional carrots

The earliest sown conventional carrots look good and are progressing well. The pre-emergence gave good weed control with some moisture in the seedbed at that time. There was strong aphid pressure before the weather cooled, so an aphicide was applied.

The first of the organic carrots were planted last week. John Joe created a stale seedbed before planting and got one burn on the established weeds. Another burn will be carried out before the carrots emerge.

The early organic potatoes look well. A burn was carried out on them pre-emergence, and a tiller then passed through the crop to build up the drills. The last of the potatoes were planted last week.

Finally, the leeks are continuing to be planted as required. Weeds are being controlled with the tine weeder, and there is also an inter-row rotavator to take care of the heavier weeds. The leeks look OK so far, but have been slow to take off with the cool temperatures.

Like in politics, a week is a long time in farming, and Barty tells us that the spring barley that looked so well when we last spoke is now faltering, with BYDV starting to appear in all fields. Barty says that the yellowing is worse near trees and high hedges, with some headlands heavily infected. It has started to look better in the past week, but the effect on yield won’t be known until the last trailer passes over the weighbridge.

Barty applied a herbicide of Nautius (70g/ha), Universe (0.7l/ha), and SeaBio seaweed (1l/ha) four weeks ago. He then came back on 16 May with the T1 spray, consisting of Decoy 250 EC (0.4l/ha), Modem 200 (0.5l/ha), CeCeCe 750 (1l/ha), and Moddus 250 EC (0.1l/ha). This was a bit earlier than usual as the variety Planet is susceptible to disease.

Prevention is better than the cure, and this seems to have worked, as the crop remains clean. The final fungicide is not far away as the flag leaf is out on the crop.

Barty notes that crops seem to be short this year and he thinks straw will be scarce this harvest. Therefore, he urges straw buyers to contact their supplier soon to secure supplies.

The BYDV is quite visible in Barty's barley, but the effect on yield won't be known until harvest.

The winter malting barley is now into grain fill. He says the combine may be rolling by the time we’re speaking to him again.

Barty says that there are two books that every tillage farmer should have: the Bayer Weed Spotter and the Irish Farmers Journal Crop Protection magazine for 2024. He says that with so many chemicals and generics these days, it’s a great cross-referencing tool to have at your disposal.

Reflecting on the past number of months, Barty says that tillage farming is a vocation; that after such a long winter looking out at the rain, then a short window to plant in, and with BYDV now proving an issue, it has to be a passion to keep going.

There have been days that have felt like the middle of winter in Derry in the past couple of weeks, which has slowed growth right down.

The winter oilseed rape looks possibly too good. Alistair is worried that it might lodge, but if he can keep it standing, he thinks it’ll be a good crop.

He applied Highgate and 16kg/ha of foliar nitrogen at petal fall.

Some of the winter barley looks excellent, while Alistair hopes to wholecrop the areas that look poor in two weeks’ time to allow him to plant a cover crop to help solve the drainage issues, which caused the poor establishment in these areas. The winter barley is later than usual in general, and Alistair says it will probably be August by the time the harvest begins.

Spring beans in the foreground, with the min-till maize in the background, planted with companions of beans, climbing beans, and sunflowers, on Alistair's farm.

The winter wheat looked hungry last week, so Alistair applied 50kg N/ha to bring it up to 200kg N/ha. It now looks a bit weedy as there was never a good opportunity for a herbicide this spring.

The winter rye will be wholecropped in four weeks’ time.

Estimated yield

He cut half an acre this week to get an estimated yield, and it seems like it will be a very good crop, even if the weight is coming from the companion crops and the wheat rather than the rye.

The spring beans have established very well. Alistair says the 250mm row spacings seems to suit the beans, with less competition between plants.

The maize that was established by min-till has also done well. The plants seem to all be there and it is now at the five-leaf stage.

It came under a small bit of stress with the recent harsh wind, so Alistair applied 50kg N/ha to keep it ticking over. This is the first artificial nitrogen the crop has received as only organic manures were applied pre-planting.

Overall, Alistair is happy with how his crops looks, and says that his minimum tillage system is working well.