Winter planting more difficult, but persistence might pay

The last few weeks have been extremely frustrating for tillage farmers. In some parts of the country this week large amounts of work were completed.

However, large areas are still to be planted.  Heavy rain on Wednesday and Friday last, October 23 and 25, put a stop to work.

Yesterday, October 28, saw quite a bit of activity in fields again and as the season goes on and where opportunity allows – where ground conditions are good – farmers will persist with winter drilling as far into the season as possible.

The task becomes more difficult, however, when starting with an extremely wet base and moving into shorter days.

The more land that is planted the better; otherwise that frustration may be carried on until next harvest as workload will be heavy at this time if a mix of crops – with different maturity dates – are not planted.

Variety in planting dates spreads the workload over the season and also makes it easier to apply fertiliser and sprays at the correct times.

Some forecasts are predicting drier weather in early November and where farmers are looking to plant, the seedbed is more important than the sowing date. Well sown is half grown; it is much more important to plant into good ground conditions rather than plant on a specific date.

When deciding to plant consider the following:
  • Are ground conditions suitable?
    • Seeds will not emerge from a very wet and lumpy seedbed;
    • Compaction caused from working wet ground may also cause problems down the line;
    • Winter crops can vernalize even when planted in January;
  • The seed rate needs to be increased;
    • As the season moves on seed rate will need to increase in order to ensure a good establishment rate;
  • Pests;
    • Slugs and crows are a big problem so choose sites carefully when planting;
  • What crops were most profitable on my farm in the past?
    • Winter crops are among the most profitable crops on e-profit monitors across the country so persistence can pay by making strategic planting decisions;
  • A mix of crops lightens the load at busy times of the year;
    • If there is an opportunity to plant it may be worth lessening the load;
  • Choose a suitable variety;
    • When planting late think about the variety you are planting;
    • Early maturing may be an option. Farmers will no doubt turn to old reliables such as Cassia which have proven themselves in previous seasons or some hybrid barley varieties may be an option for some in poor conditions.

Ireland isn’t the only country struggling to plant. Farmers across Europe are behind in planting, while this ground may still be made up it is important to look at what’s going on around the world and consider your cropping options and future market.