The last two autumn sowing seasons have been a real joy to work with, with consistently dry days to allow seeding and establishment to proceed swiftly.
Its normal year-round service has resumed as bad weather led to more complex decisions, the outcome of which will not be seen until next spring.
When the weather is as glorious as it was a few weeks ago and the weather forecast is calling for more of it, decisions are simple: keep them lit.
When the weather is atrocious and the fields are soaked, decisions are easy again: park the machines and find a warm and dry hiding place.
When conditions are “doubtful at best,” stress levels rise. Mucking up crops in October can be fine if the temperature stays high and conditions subsequently dry out and improve, but if the weather turns wet and cold it could be a long winter nursing ailing crops that are already suffering severe yield losses have suffered.
Continue or stop and wait for better weather, that is the question.
And the risk is significantly increased this year with such high production costs. Sick crops cost more and yield less; This cannot be tolerated in the current climate.
On the other hand, winter crops traditionally outperform spring crops, and tons foot the bills. Hence the stress. How can we manage this risk and try to reduce the stress?
In the north-east of the country we have developed an allergy to spring barley; it will only be considered when all other options have been exhausted. He has no chance against the red-hot winter wheat and the equally fashionable winter barley.
But I’m beginning to wonder if the calculus should be revisited in this decision?
Varietal improvement has been a hallmark of spring barley for the last 20 years – something we can’t say about many other crops.
Also, as we face another year of high fertilizer prices, there are two things to note.
Where stubble was cultivated last July to August, there is often a lot of greenery. This green is nitrogen in the pocket, enough to meet a third of the needs of next year’s spring barley crop if managed properly.
Second, we have significant changes in the way manure is calculated on high-density dairy farms. There is more N for each cow and less for each cube of manure exported.
This means that much more off-farm manure has to be exported to comply with regulations. Available stubble next spring could be prime real estate for a dairy farmer under pressure to balance the books.
This is how the poor relative becomes a viable alternative: a culture that has remained constant for many years and in which a significant part of the nutrient requirement can be covered between the winter cover and liquid manure.
Some areas are unsuitable for spring planting and spring barley reduces opportunities for rapeseed next fall.
However, if the alternative continually jumps in front of gates for the next four months and sees a poor crop being annihilated by slugs, crows and wet, the option to park the seeder now and head to the fire might not be such a bad decision after all .
Richard Hackett is an agronomist based in North Co Dublin and a member of the ITCA and ACA
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/richard-hackett-why-the-scales-are-tilting-back-in-favour-of-spring-barley-42066083.html Richard Hackett: Why the scales are tipping back in favor of spring barley