What opportunities has the reduction in winter cereal area presented?
A reduction in the winter cereal area may have some benefits and it is important to look at the positives.
Speaking at the Dairygold Tillage Conference on Friday, January 24, Ciarán Collins – Teagasc tillage specialist – noted that the difficult winter has provided an opportunity for farmers to diversify their rotations and maybe take action on problem areas of their fields.
For example, planting in the springtime allows farmers the opportunity to possibly apply more organic manures which may not be available in the autumn.
“The last time this happened was the autumn of 2012 and the default setting at that stage was to put in spring barley,” Ciarán commented.
Ciarán called on farmers to take a sustainable approach and to consider their options.
“Take the opportunity to import organic manure in the autumn – pig slurry, cattle slurry, farmyard manure – and incorporate it immediately. If the winter crops went in we might not have had that advantage.”
The tillage specialist put an emphasis on the importance of rotation.
“Take a sustainable approach and consider other options. There are a lot of things to consider this spring rather than just the default spring barley option.”
Noting the importance of rotation, he stated the benefits that protein crops like beans can have.
While seed is tight this year, last year farmers were paid €365/ha under the protein scheme. Earlier on at the event Dairygold had announced a contract beans price for Harvest 2020 of €205/t.Also Read: Dairygold announces contract beans price of €205/t for 2020 harvest
“A break crop allows first wheat crop production and we know from the Teagasc e-profit monitors that, after fodder beet, first wheat is the most profitable crop that we can grow and from a sustainability point of view beans fix nitrogen (N) and offer an alternative method of controlling difficult grass weeds.”
Ciarán also noted that while oats provide an excellent break there are also a lot of premium contracts available for the crop from horse feed to food-grade oats.
“Oats are a take-all break,” Ciarán noted, while also commenting that there has been a big improvement in oat yield and quality.
Very importantly, Ciarán added: “While the individual crop itself may not give you the highest margin, you have to think of rotation and the five-year margin rather than looking at it on a one-year basis.
“Fodder crops are a good option for some people, but the crucial thing is to have an agreement in place – an agreement on tonnage, area, price, quality parameters and payments. Without those things in place fodder crops can fall down.”