Brian Reilly, Drummonds. \ Barry Cronin

Brian Reilly Drummonds, north Dublin and Louth

Brian remains positive about the season ahead. He said yields may be down, but crops still have the potential to perform very well. There is almost no planting done in his area, and over 70mm of rain fell in the last week.

He said it will get dry at some stage, and farmers need to be ready when the weather does come right by having seed, sprays and fertiliser on farm.

On spring planting, Brian encouraged farmers to stick to their original plan to protect crop rotation.

He said: “It is more important to have the correct conditions than to plant on a certain date. Soil temperatures are increasing, crops will come up quickly and have better establishment.”

He advised farmers to increase seed rates, as there will not be the same opportunity for plants to tiller. He also advised farmers to get 70% of their fertiliser into the seedbed for spring crops to drive crops on. He said urea in the seedbed will help to save some money.

On winter crops, there are many in the northeast which have not received fertiliser or herbicide as ground conditions did not allow for travel.

“Ground is completely saturated,” Brian said. Farmers have not been able to travel, but the aim should be to get fertiliser out next week, as well as trace elements and weed control. His priority is winter barley and oilseed rape.

With so much to be done, Brian cautioned farmers against putting growth regulators, herbicides, fungicides and trace elements in one tank, as applying a large mix to stressed crops will offset ramularia in barley, so his advice was to go with a little and often.

George Blackburn, Cooney Furlong Grain.

George Blackburn Cooney Furlong Grain, Co Wexford

George said there was 76.7mm of rain in his region in the seven days before Tuesday of this week. The agronomist noted that there is very little fieldwork done, with only 100ac of spring barley planted and about 250ac of beans in his region.

Farmers struggled to get fertiliser out onto winter crops, but have managed to bring applications up to date.

On beans, George encouraged farmers to plant away as they offer insurance and keep rotations on track.

“It’s not too late to sow beans, just don’t drill them as deep. The crows won’t be as big an issue with other crops planted,” he said, adding that heavier ground might help bean crops if dry weather comes later.

George encouraged farmers to get seed and fertiliser onto farms to avoid wait times when weather turns.

To give the crop the best chance of meeting protein specifications for malting, George said: “Front load nitrogen into the seedbed, 70-80units/acre, put it in with the compound. This will help kick off the crop to grow evenly.”

George said this risk management strategy was shown to reduce the impact of drought in 2018. He commented that farmers can still grow good crops, but advised against cutting corners.

‘Ridiculous regulations’

The agronomist commented that “ridiculous regulations” like the three-crop rule and rotation requirements on farms of 50-70ac in size were causing a lot of hassle and work, and had no environmental or economic benefit.

“The increased level of red tape is making everyone’s job harder in difficult years, it’s an extra layer of work and mental stress on farmers in a very bad year.”

Liam Leahy, Dairygold. / Donal O' Leary

Liam Leahy Dairygold, Midleton, Co Cork

“Winter crops are surprisingly good. There are issues, but there are some very acceptable crops. The better crops have come from the later plantings,” Liam said.

In general, in his area barley is looking a bit better than what it actually is, as when you walk into crops they are thin, but he is confident that the better crops will come to nice average yields.

All winter barley has compound fertiliser out, with the majority up to date on nitrogen. Herbicide applications are complete. Those without a T1 fungicide on will move to a two-spray programme. Patches of rhynchosporium and brown rust are present.

Early planted rye is a crop that is standing out and Liam said looking back maybe crops should be planted early. Harvest was drawn out last autumn, but in future Liam said we have varieties suited to early planting and they should be used.

In general, winter wheat has weathered better, and most is up to date on herbicide, fungicide and fertiliser. Oilseed rape is a mixed bag, with great early-sown crops. Three hundred acres of spring barley were sown on drier ground and is at the three-leaf stage, some spring beans are planted and 60-80ac of early potatoes have been planted.

“It’s not that late yet if we could get a run at it. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about barley yet.” Spring beans are the next priority, as “the financials are very strong to stay with the crop”.

Dedicated growers will persist with spring oats and spring wheat. Some spring wheat may be used for whole crop, and Liam said forage crops are an option.

“Where there is a worthwhile opportunity to embrace forage crops, some tillage farmers will embrace it, but it will have to be secured,” he said.