Wet years will always flag up issues that relate to poorly drained land on tillage farms. Undoubtedly, 2023 was one of those years.
Recent episodes of the ‘Tillage Edge’ podcast have focused on the issue of carrying out field drainage work – what to do and what not to do.
Firstly, there are a significant number of fields around the country not yet planted out because of waterlogged areas.
In addition, other fields that have been planted remain very patchy, because of surface or sub-surface water.
When it comes to assessing the potential of any field, it is the average area across the sown area that must be counted.
Ensuring that an entire field will generate a good crop, starts with ensuring that the ground does not become waterlogged.
Drainage can be tricky to get exactly right. But, often, it is the simple things that make the biggest difference.
Pat Tuohy is a research scientist with Teagasc, and has specialist interest in soil hydrology.
In tandem with drainage-related issues, he recognises that compaction is another significant challenge on tillage farms.
“It has been another difficult year for farmers. The timing of the rainfall, when it came, resulted in a lot of compaction issues,” he said.
“There is very little that farmers can do to address compaction problems at this time of the year.
“It’s now a case of waiting until we get dry soil conditions again, and seek to incorporate improvements in soil structure at that stage.”
According to Tuohy, one of the advantages associated with a wet year, is the fact that issues relating to soil damage and poor soil health are flagged-up in very graphic terms.
The physical signs of these issues are manifold on farms around the country at the present time. They include poor crop development on headland, particularly within non-plough scenarios, and ponding in fields that remains in place over a number of days.
The first step in addressing these issues is an inspection of the drain outlets in the affected fields.
“As a rule of thumb, a level of drain maintenance should be carried out every second year,” he said.
“This means keeping an eye on open drains and drain outlets. Mapping and marking of field drains are also important.
“In other words, if there are old field maps that feature drainage systems, these should be found. It’s then a case of marking where the drainage outlets can be found.
“If we know where an existing drainage scheme is, we can keep an eye n it. This is a good way of managing that system,” Tuohy said.