Tillage focus: Why this Carlow farmer is going back to the plough

George Byrne farms in Bennekerry, Co. Carlow. Having moved away from min-till a few years ago he was looking at the range of ploughs at the Lemken demo day when AgriLand caught up with him.

The Carlow man has made a start on ploughing on his lighter ground, but would no doubt like to have more work done at this time of the year.

George got all of the winter cereals, he had planned on sowing, in by the end of November. He has started ploughing for spring crops.

“We would have liked to get the winter crops in earlier in the autumn, but that didn’t happen. The last crop that we sowed was wheat in November. We grow seven or eight different crops so the three-crop rule isn’t a problem.

“We have about 100ac of ploughing done so far this spring. We’ve a good bit to do, but we’ve made a start on the dry land. We have no spring crops in at all yet.”

A 3m-wide Lemken Saphir 7 box drill at the recent Lemken demo day

Spring beans

George will sow his spring bean crop as soon as possible.

“Generally we try and sow the beans earlier. I have a cut-off date in my head for sowing them. You have to go with the weather. My worry is that when you get to the end of the year harvesting can run into November and that’s a no go.

There is a certain date we will have to cut off – when it gets to April or, really, the end of March.

A Lemken Diamant 11 plough at the recent Lemken event


Having tried out pre-emergence herbicides in 2016 George decided to apply pre-emergence across all of his winter crops.

“We applied a small bit of pre-emergence in 2016 and it worked well, so we applied all pre-emergence herbicides this year. It certainly works well with the beans and we said we’d try it on the cereals, for grass weed control.”

Moving away from min-till

“We’re all plough-based. We moved away from min-till a good few years ago. We grow a good bit of oilseed rape, maize and beet – we have to plough for these crops.

“We were starting to have issues with grass weeds. We saw a yield drop; maybe I didn’t stay at it long enough,” he added.

Our ground is probably just that little bit heavy for min-till.

A Lemken Rubin 12 cultivator formed part of the display

Growing beet

George grows seven to eight different crops each year, depending on the season. He has regular customers for his beet crop.

“I have about 15t left in the yard. I pit it, as well as sell it as a beet mix to dairy and beef farms during the year. Quite a few of my regular customers want that service again this year.

We use beet for our own cattle too.

It has often been suggested to tillage farmers to grow beet and maize for livestock farmers. However, George doesn’t think this is the way to go, unless you have a trusted customer base.

It’s not the way to go. If you can get a trusted buyer who will stand over the deal – that’s ok.

A Lemken EurOpal 8 plough, fitted with a FixPack press, at the recent Lemken exhibtion

“What does a farmer do if he doesn’t have a market for it? We use beet ourselves, so I’m not too bothered if lads come looking for it or if someone changes their mind, but I wouldn’t like to have beet in the ground hoping that someone will buy it from me.

“We had beet at home that was pulled in November and it was starting to go off. We finished the last of it yesterday.

“If a farmer has beet and he has no use for it and it goes off, it’s worthless and could have to be dumped. At €900-1,000/ac to grow the crop, where does that leave him?

Unless farmers have a market for it, stay away from it. It needs to be sold to someone you know and trust.

Lemken display

George has a mounted six-furrow Juwel plough and was looking at some of the other machines at the demo day last week in Co. Carlow. The demo was moved to Tinryland GAA Grounds, as a result of poor field conditions.

When AgriLand spoke to George he was looking at the Juwel 8 TCP ISOBUS plough – an implement that sets itself.

I have a mounted six-furrow Juwel 8 plough.  GPS is the next step up on that plough.

A Lemken Juwel 8 TCP ISOBUS plough at the event

Had George any intention of buying?

“I’d love to, but I certainly won’t be at the minute because the other plough isn’t that old and we’re very happy with its performance. We have GPS on a John Deere 7930 already and that does the ploughing.

“It wouldn’t be a big thing to put this plough on it and the other John Deere tractors have automatic steering (AutoTrac) as well. We’re set up for GPS work now.”

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