The fodder crisis has taken the headlines, but tillage farmers are also facing a crisis.

Very little spring sowing has been carried out and a large majority of ploughing, for these spring crops, has yet to be started.

Work on winter crops has also been hampered, such as spraying and fertiliser spreading, as ground conditions are not suitable for travel.

Farmers must remember to slow down and stay safe when facing into this work.

Many farmers are now trying to fit in work at any opportunity, which is leading to poor sowing conditions in some cases; crops of beans were rushed in on some farms.

Three-crop rule

The three-crop rule has a big role to play in this as farmers feel under pressure to meet these requirements. The Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) grain committee chairman Mark Browne has asked for this rule to be scrapped for the season ahead; but a response must be made soon.

Farmers are being forced to grow three crops in a country that is covered in grass. This rule is forcing farmers to cause soil compaction and to sow crops in poor conditions. This will most likely lead to yield loss and reduced profits.

Calendar farming

The situation that tillage farmers find themselves in highlights the problems with ‘calendar farming’. Ploughing was prohibited for spring crops until December 1. Opportunities, while limited, for ploughing were available in October and November and would have lessened the workload.

Autumn ploughing also reduces the amount of tilling needed on ground, as the over-winter frost helps to break-up the soil. Land ploughed in wet conditions now requires more tillage work.

While calendar farming aims to reduce pollution from one nutrient, it results in a lot more diesel being burnt and green house gases being emitted to the atmosphere.

In the meantime, the nitrogen has most likely been washed out of the soil because of the heavy rain, so the ‘ploughing ban’ has most likely caused more problems than it has solved.

Stay safe

Tillage farmers now face a heavy workload on farms and should not put themselves under pressure once the dry weather comes. Farmers need to: take breaks; take time when changing machinery on the tractor; take a few seconds to think before they start any job; and stay safe.