New premixed GLAS wild bird cover crop reduces rat problems

Many farmers who sowed GLAS wild bird cover crops last year were plagued with rats over the winter months.

And, according to seed supplier John Howard, this happened mainly where the cereal crop used within the mix was oats.

Howard, the Irish agent for Bright Seeds, has been supplying seed mixtures to gun clubs all over Ireland for many years and is now a major supplier of wild bird cover seed to the farming community for the GLAS scheme.

When designing the seed mix for this year, he met with the Manager Director of Bright Seeds Chris Bright.

Together they came up with probably the only premixed GLAS wild bird cover crop available.

They deliberately left out oats, because it only draws rats and crows, and instead included triticale as the cereal crop in the mix.

“I am not saying that vermin will not be attracted to this mix, but because most of the seeds are so small vermin won’t go mad for them.

“The triticale grain is also enclosed in a large layer of chaff, which makes it less attractive to vermin,” Howard explained.

The other advantage of triticale is that it stands all winter and rarely lodges. This, in itself, is a great positive because when the crop lodges, the food is on the ground and then the rats come.

“Oats tend to lodge very early in the autumn. I am not saying that triticale won’t attract rats because any food available during the winter months will attract vermin.

“But, because it stays standing, it won’t attract them in large numbers,” he said.

Howard added: “Equally it will not attract crows and pigeons at harvest time, because the seed is enclosed in a few layers of chaff and they find it difficult to get out.

Generally the crows don’t bother with the triticale until December when all other food is scarce, and even then it would not be their favourite choice.

“Triticale out-performs all other cereals in the wild bird cover option for the GLAS scheme,” he added.

The above are the reasons why Howard advises against using oats and to instead use triticale which, he says, is the department’s preferred cereal option.

What is triticale and where can it be sown?

Triticale is often mistaken by farmers as being a kale but it is not even remotely related to kale.

“It is a hybrid cross between rye and wheat and looks for all the world like a grain of wheat,” he explained.

Triticale will grow in poor soil and does not require a high pH, but he warned that poor soil does not mean bog.

“None of the department’s recommended seeds for the wild bird cover crops will grow in bog. Participants should note that one of the rules of the scheme states that plots chosen for this option must be capable of producing the crop. By this, the department means that the crop must be sown where it will grow.”

As a rule of thumb, Howard always advises that when cultivating the tractor should not be skidding and sinking.

“If the machinery is inclined to get stuck during cultivations then your chances of producing a crop that will pass the inspection are not good,” he added.

An affordable mix

Howard has his own specially-formulated premixed seed pack with the exact ratios of seed/ha for the GLAS scheme.

This is a very affordable, good mix that contains the exact ratios and varieties of seeds recommended by the Department of Agriculture.

Simply called the ‘GLAS Mix’, it contains 88kg of seed/ha made up of triticale (75kg), linseed (7.5kg), mustard (5kg) and phacelia (0.50kg).

The latter is added to give the mix colour and life, as well as attracting bumble bees and butterflies.

“The phacelia is an absolute magnet for attracting bumble bees and I would like to see it included in some way in the bee options of the scheme in future years,” he said.

The seed mixture is available in 22kg bags and the recommended sowing rate is four bags/ha.

It is priced online at €50 for the first bag, with free delivery, and €45 for all other bags purchased. Further discounts are available for group purchasing or bulk deliveries. To visit the online store click here

Various other game-crop mixes such as John’s Delight and a reasonably-priced wild-flower meadow are also available online.

A crop of John’s Delight

Howard also supplies a kale mix, which is made up of six different varieties – so if one variety is not suitable for your ground then there are five others that should come through.

As well as these, Howard also supplies linseed and mustard in 10kg bags.

And, he says, seed could get scarce very fast this year due to the high demand as a result of the fine spell of weather enjoyed over the past weeks.

Stockists for the GLAS wild bird cover:

  • McDonnell Bros, Coolagown and Saleen, Co. Cork.
  • O’Sullivan’s, Beauford Bridge, Killarney, Co. Kerry.
  • Pat Tierney Supplies, Kilkishen, Co. Clare.
  • Lavelle Hardware Stores, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan.

For more details, contact John Howard at Sunnyside Fruit Ltd., Rathcormac, Co. Cork on: 025-36253.