Ray farms on the outskirts of Midleton in partnership with his brother, Michael, and helped by his sons, Conor, Daragh, and Cian. They have both owned and leased land, totalling 750ac.

Alongside the tillage enterprise, the farm buys 12- to 18-month-old beef bullocks and heifers to winter finish in the shed with forage maize and arable silage grown on the farm.

There are also ewes lambed on-farm and store lambs are bought in to overwinter on Redstart forage rape before finishing in spring off grass and ration.

The farm ranges from quite light soils on the home farm to heavy soils on some leased land.

Ninety per cent of the crops each year are grown under a plough-based establishment system.

Ray managed to plant winter rye, barley and wheat last autumn. They all got fertiliser early, which Ray says was important to keep them green and tillering as it was quite mild at the time in February and early March.

Only around 3ac of winter wheat was lost to waterlogging and slugs, but the rye and barley are the outstanding crops so far with full stands and healthy crops.

The barley got its first spray at the weekend, with fungicide, growth regulator and a wild oat herbicide included, but the rain arrived before further spray applications on the rye and wheat could be completed.

Ray plans to plant spring oats, spring barley, fodder and sugar beet, forage maize, and arable silage when the weather improves.

He planted spring beans last year and got on well with them but is unsure if they will be planted this year.

A crop of winter rye on Ray Fitzgerald's farm.

Some of Ray’s farm is currently being converted to solar panels. Some of these panels are already exporting electricity to the grid through a nearby substation. The plan is to graze grass under the panels with sheep once fully commissioned.

Conall managed to get just over half of his spring beans planted over two weeks ago but had to resort to fitting dual wheels to the tractor to spray them with a pre-emergence herbicide on Sunday as ground conditions were poor.

The LG Caprice beans were sprayed with Nirvana at a full rate of 4.5l/ha. The ground had ploughed up dry but was drilled in a light rain.

The beans are germinating well despite the heavy rain since sowing.

Conall went with the dual wheels for spraying as it was the last chance at the weekend to get a pre-emergence spray on before the beans emerged.

The KWS Joyau and KWS Tardis winter barley looks quite good despite the waterlogged soil.

They were brought up to a total of 137.5kg/ha of nitrogen from 75kg/ha at the weekend.

These crops are also due their first spray whenever the weather allows, with 0.6l/ha Decoy 250 EC, 0.75l/ha Comet 200, 0.5kg/ha Medax Max, 5kg/ha Epso Combitop, and 0.7l/ha Mancozin. This should help to clear up some small bits of disease on the crop such as net blotch.

The WPB Isabel winter oats have reached GS30 and are also due their first spray. The planned tank mix whenever the ground is trafficable is 1l/ha of CCC, 0.5l/ha Proline, 0.75l/ha Amistar, 0.3l/ha Midas, 5kg/ha Epso Combitop, and 0.7l/ha Mancozin.

The oats were brought up to 75kg N/ha from 37.5kg N/ha.

All of the ground for spring barley and oats has been sprayed off. Conall says it is difficult to source seed but he is now just waiting on the weather to start ploughing and drilling.

Conall has decided not to enter any of his land into the Straw Incorporation Measure this year as he thinks that straw will be quite expensive at harvest, especially in his area.

Land is waterlogged in Derry as it is in the rest of the country. Alistair has 50ac of beans to plant but he’s in no panic just yet as it is his wettest patch of land and there is no point mucking it in.

Alistair has managed to apply 62kg N/ha on all his winter crops. The winter barley, wheat and rye also received 3,000 gallons/ac of slurry through an umbilical system in the past few weeks.

There were small bits of damage caused by the tractor tyres but Alistair thinks this won’t have much of an effect once the crop fills in.

Alistair has refrained from applying chemicals just yet because it is quite cold at night and he is wary of putting too much stress on crops. However, the winter barley has received boron, manganese, magnesium and milk from the dairy herd on the farm. The winter oilseed rape got boron, magnesium and milk. He also applied milk to the crops last year and hopes that it will act as a bio-fungicide, especially for powdery mildew.

There may also be some nutritional and health benefits for the plants. The winter oilseed rape looks fantastic after spring barley but is not as forward following winter barley.

Alistair Craig's oilseed rape has bulked up and will be flowering in a couple of weeks.

Alistair thinks this is because there was nitrogen left in the ground after poor spring barley yields last year. The crops are a couple of weeks away from flowering.

The winter rye has quite a few weeds in it at the moment but it is hoped that the rye will smother them once growth kicks off in earnest. The clover companion crop in the rye is thriving in some fields but it did not establish well in others.

Alistair is not sure of the reason for this as the fields where it did not establish have a higher soil fertility than those where it did.