Harvest 2015 saw record yields across tillage farms in Ireland, according to Teagasc’s Crops Specialist Tim O’Donovan.

Speaking at Teagasc’s Spring Tillage Seminar in Co. Wexford recently, he said that most tillage crops produced yields which were higher than their previous 10-year average.

This increase in yield occurred as there were enough grain sites to fill, he said, with 4t/ac crops producing over 1,000 seed head/m2.

“Four-tonne crops in 2015 had 1,000-1,200 heads/m2, this is probably where the additional yield came from. This can be influenced by seeding rate.

“The number of seed heads/m2 is important for yield. Getting the foundations right are very important, it is all about producing these heads in the most cost-effective way,” he said.

O’Donovan also said that tillage farmers should aim to produce 1,100 seed heads/m2, and for this to happen they must consider the seeding rate.

It is always a bigger mistake to have too light of a seeding rate compared to a heavy seeding rate.

Crop Yield

O’Donovan also said that grain yields have been increasing gradually over the years, with the exception of 2012, where yields were down due to poor weather conditions.

He said the best varieties on the Department of Agriculture’s recommended list have been getting better over time.

This improvement has allowed the yields of most tillage crops to increase over the past 10 years, he said, with winter barley become the star of the show.

Teagasc record yields in 2015

Source: Teagasc

Soil Fertility

Furthermore, tillage farmers must get the basics right when it comes to soil fertility, as this is important for crop yields, he said.

A lot of the tillage soils are progressing in terms of P (Phosphorous), K (Potassium) and pH, but about 35% of soils have a pH range of 5.5-6.2%, which is not suitable for lime sensitive crops.

He also said that farmers are wasting their money by spreading Phosphorous on soils which have a low pH, as acidic soils tie-up P, making it unavailable to the plants roots.

“Having very low index soils will hold you back, even though you are putting on the required levels of manure.”

O’Donovan said that after the issue of pH has been addressed, farmers should aim to have their long term fields in a P index of three. This should be built up using as much organic manure as possible.