I hope there will be some new readers for this column given the push for more arable farming this year. Welcome.
With the expected increase in grassland for summer crops, there are a few things to consider for those new to tillage when heading to Grasleer.
First, you need a recent soil sample. In general, arable land has relatively constant soil fertility. Ley soil, on the other hand, can be a mixed bag.
Take a sample before you start anything. You probably won’t get the results back in time for sowing, but remedial action can be taken before problems arise later in the summer.
A sample every 4-5 ha is sufficient, or wherever there is a change in management such as B. different paddocks.
Grazing land is very different from silage production land. Soil pH is crucial for arable crops, so have some granulated lime on hand.
Soil potash is also vital for tilling crops. On any land with high take-offs — like silage, hay, or tillage — Earth K goes out the gates in trailer loads. This K must be replaced, otherwise there will be significant yield losses.
Wet patches are usually just a minor inconvenience in grassland; They can be avoided early in the season and taken advantage of later in the year.
This does not work for arable crops. Significant remedial action may need to be taken to drain wet patches, which takes up the two scarcest resources in spring: time and money.
Barley does not like wet feet and does not tolerate being left in water. Wet areas incur all input costs without the output of dry areas.
Other problems that can appear after weed include leather jackets and wireworms. These pests can decimate an established crop and complete write-offs ensue.
There are no effective chemical controls for these pests. All that can be done is chop the sod a few times with a heavy disc or tiller before plowing in the hope that physically crushing the sod will reduce populations.
Before you commit to plowing farmland, consider all of these added risks and costs, especially the cost of fertilizers this year.
There’s no point in growing crops if you can’t get enough fertility on the crop. All income from the payment is eaten up in the high production costs but low yield from obstacles.
If the risk is too high, leave it in the grass and forget about the headline payment.
This is the third time in a decade that we have faced a feed crisis that once again calls into question the entire “sustainable production model” of beef and dairy that we love to repeat.
It is also the third time in a decade that the arable sector has been asked to step up and rescue the situation.
The experience of the last two crises suggests that once the arable sector ends, it will again be ignored and left on the fringes of policy making.
We have to be careful here. If we are dropped again after the emergency ends, when the inevitable fourth feed crisis hits, the response from the arable sector might mirror the response I often get from my teenage daughter: “It’s a problem for you, not a problem for you me”.
Richard Hackett is an agronomist based in North Co. Dublin; he is a member of the ACA and the ITCA
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/richard-hackett-top-tips-for-any-farmer-switching-any-fields-from-grassland-to-tillage-41505719.html Richard Hackett: Top tips for any farmer converting their fields from grassland to arable