Tillage focus: Wholecrop soybean harvest in Co. Wicklow

It wasn’t just an average silage pick up in Stratford, Co. Wicklow, when AgriLand visited John Wynne’s farm in early September. The dairy, beef and tillage farmer was trying something different.

Ahead of the BiG X harvester lay a crop of soybeans ready to be wholecropped and they were flying through the machine. The 21ac were harvested in a short afternoon.

John Wynne on his farm in Co. Wicklow

On arrival to the yard, the soybeans, now mulched almost as fine as lawn clippings, had a vivid green colour in the pit.

While the true test will be in the feeding this winter, John was pleased with a relatively easily managed crop during the growing season and was happy to give the crop a chance in an attempt to increase the level of protein grown on his own farm.

Having heard about Quinns of Baltinglass’ research into growing soybeans in Ireland John approached the company about the crop.

“I had this field in spring barley and it wasn’t really producing the goods,” John explained.

“I never wanted to bring the crop to full maturity, because I’m in winter milk. I start calving at the end of September. I tried beans a couple of years ago and I was trying to cut the crop when I had cows calving. I need to be finished harvest work, by September 15.”

Home-grown protein source

Already having a tillage background made it easier for John to try something different, but he admitted that he was nervous about the return from the crop. Importantly, though, he was willing to give it a chance.

There are 21ac in this, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I’m still unsure if it’s a good idea.

The crop had a high water percentage at the time of cutting and John was unsure whether he would use it for the dairy cows or the beef cattle.

However, John was sure of trying to source protein from his own farm. He will work with a nutritionist to decide how it fits into his animals’ diets.

I’m trying to use my own land to get some protein into the yard.

“I’m on the Keenan inTouch system and they’re going to analyse it and we’ll do a diet side-by-side and see what weight we feed and what diet would be an alternative to it if it wasn’t available and we’ll go from there then.”

Easy management and early yield indications

The crop was sown on April 26 and received 235kg/ha of 0-7-30. John sowed at 140kg/ha (57kg/ac) with his own one-pass drill.

Pre-emergence herbicide kept weeds at bay, before applying another post-emergence spray.

John had some reservations during the summer, but was very happy with the crop come harvest.

“It did get stunted in May with a touch of drought. Into July it really hadn’t done much. I went away on holidays and a bit of wet weather came and when I came back it took off.

“Week-on-week it just jumped out of it. In the middle of July you could still see the ground. It hadn’t filled in. Every week it was getting better and better,” John commented.

The crop was lying over at harvest, but still little was being left behind and the harvester made extremely light work of the job at hand. The final product was a fine mulch as can be seen in the picture above.

John estimated the crop yielded approximately 9.7t/ac (fresh yield).

Protein payment and costs

David Shortall of Quinns of Baltinglass informed AgriLand that the company has been in contact with the Department of Agriculture regarding the inclusion of soybeans in the protein aid scheme.

Very importantly he told AgriLand about the costs involved in growing the crop.

“Soya costs approximately €300/acre to grow including all machinery costs. At a fresh weight yield of over 9.5t/ac and a DM content of 28%, wholecrop soya is cheaper to produce per tonne of DM than grass silage”

The low input costs coupled with a protein payment would make soybeans a viable and attractive option for farmers who want to increase the amount of protein they produce on their own farms.

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