Tony Bell

Balbriggan, Co Dublin

The weather had taken up by the time Tony started his winter wheat harvest. The wheat averaged 3.7 to 3.8t/ac, while the quality and hectolitre weight were very good. Tony is relatively happy with this, given the low inputs on the crop, including 180kg N/ha, meaning that the crop will leave a margin over costs.

Tony made full use of the Straw Incorporation Measure, which he describes as a no-brainer, given the work involved with baling and the value of nutrients available in the straw.

Compost was spread on wheat stubbles before incorporation. Triticale will be drilled in mid-September.

The spring beans are being cut this week. Tony says it is unheard of to be harvesting beans this early.

While there are a good number of pods on the plants, the beans inside are quite small and shrivelled. There are also patches missing due to waterlogging after planting.

The maize has recovered exceptionally well since last month. It is 7ft tall and is producing lovely cobs. Tony says that he may need to look again at his establishment system. He might subsoil the ground before using his min-till system.

Tony is starting to look at his costs for the year in detail. When he is doing this, the first cost he will include is a payment to himself. This can be considered the cost of his own labour. He says there is no sense in working hard all year only for a break-even yield to leave absolutely no money for the farmer.

Tony notes that it has been a very tough year for farmers, with a lot of mental hardship. The harvest is the culmination of a year’s work, and results can be disappointing.

He says farmers should give themselves a break, take stock of their year and profitability, and then look to improve for next year – not just in terms of profitability, but also for their work-life balance, soil health and the long-term improvement of their farm.

Mark Hally

Cashel, Co Tipperary

Mark has been very busy over the past month between the harvest and baling a lot of silage. The pressure should be reduced after this week when he hopes to finish his spring barley.

Stubble cultivation taking place on Mark's farm.

The later-drilled crops are just about ripe, but nothing is passing for malting, due to secondary regrowth and the subsequent green grains.

The bushel weight is also reducing as he moves into the late-planted barley. It is yielding between 2.5 and 2.9t/ac, with some earlier crops reaching 3t/ac.

Mark is keeping up to date on straw, and it is yielding 6 to 7 bales/ac. He says there has been a lot of straw chopped in his area in addition to the low yields, which will leave straw very scarce.

The winter barley straw was finally baled last week. Mark had not touched the straw for a month, but when he did manage to rake it and get it dry, it baled up in good condition, with 10 to 11 bales/ac. Mark hasn’t got a chance to sow his cover crops yet, due to straw in fields and harvesting, but he hopes to get some planted this weekend.

The winter oats yielded 3.8t/ac, which Mark was pleased with. The oaten straw was chopped and incorporated.

However, the winter wheat did not live up to expectations, yielding 3.5t/ac. He thought it would have done better, and acknowledges that the dry May and June took their toll on the crop.

The spring beans will be ready to harvest in about 10 days. Mark hopes to plant some winter oilseed rape this year if he finds the time and the weather is agreeable. He has not grown it for a number of years, but will now look to replace some of his spring barley with it.

The maize and beet both look very good this year. Mark sprayed a fungicide onto the beet on Monday to help preserve the canopy.

Jack Browne

Tullow, Co Carlow

Jack is hoping that the weather remains dry for the next week so that he can harvest his organic spring oats and wheat. They will be ready to harvest in the next couple of days.

Jack's agroforestry field was covered in bales after cutting multispecies sward for silage.

There has been no lodging so far and Jack is happy with how his crops look. He is hoping that the crops will yield over 1t/ac.

Jack is a bit worried about weed contamination in the spring oats. There is a good amount of charlock near the ground in the crop.

There is an allowance of 5% for weed seeds and thrash in his specifications, so he says it should be ok. As the crop is still standing, he will cut the crop a bit higher to try to minimise this issue.

The straw from both crops is being chopped under the Straw Incorporation Measure. Jack says that the straw will do more for him in the ground than if he sells it, especially when he cannot purchase artificial fertilisers.

The organic cover crop seed from Germany was delivered this week. The mix contains phacelia, radish, crimson clover, and vetch. It will be planted at ACRES seeding rates.

Jack was pleasantly surprised last year at the amount of biomass produced by his September-sown cover crops, so he is not too worried at the planting date. He will still try to get them in soon after harvest.

There was also 11ac of multispecies sward cut recently for silage. It was an extremely heavy cut, producing 204 bales. The quality seems to be quite good, and despite the very stalky chicory, there was a surprising amount of high-quality grass.

The remaining 10ac of multispecies sward might now also be cut, in addition to a second cut from what was cut earlier in the summer.

Apples are being harvested from the agroforestry trees. Jack hopes to put more focus on the trees next year and produce 1 or 2 tonnes of apples so that he can dip his toes into juicing.