This week’s weather has put an end to hopes of entering tillage fields for another few weeks.

Tillage farmers have now been trying to plant crops since the end of September and while a short window allowed an estimated 50-65% of the winter cereal area to be sown (figures have been revised), the weather since has not been conducive to tillage farming.

Hopes of getting a substantial amount of winter wheat in up to the end of January and into February were scuppered by continuing rain.

In the past few weeks storms, Ciara and Dennis and rain, hail and snow in the past few days have dashed hopes of getting to fields anytime soon.

It must also be mentioned that a proportion of the crops that were planted did not survive the winter and there is hardly a winter cereal field in Ireland that hasn’t an empty patch.

Limited cropping options

As time goes on the cropping options will also diminish. While some farmers will persist with beans into April, it is not ideal and the limited amount of spring wheat available would preferably be planted before the end of March to ensure some sort of reasonable harvest date.

Meanwhile, farmers are setting the default button to spring barley, but this isn’t as simple as running to the shop for a litre of milk.

Much more spring barley seed is needed than the previous season and the wet backend to harvest 2019 meant that not all seed met the mark, so spring barley seed levels are down in a year when more is needed than ever.

Workload ahead and mystery of 3-crop rule

On top of this the majority of winter cereals have not received a herbicide and fertiliser applications are delayed.

While some farmers ploughed when conditions came somewhere near right, that ground is now saturated and much of the spring planting area is yet to be turned over.

The workload is large, but farmers have been in this situation before and work will be done.

How the three-crop rule will work is a mystery. For those farmers who usually sow only spring crops they will struggle to get seed for their crops, even if the weather was on their side.

Tune in to FarmLand

On this week’s episode of FarmLand, we visit a farmer in Co. Wexford who has beet to pull and hasn’t a sod turned or a seed planted. We also talk to Teagasc to get a handle on planting estimates.

This week’s episode of FarmLand will be available from 5:30pm this evening, February 27.