Insights from Local Tillage Farmers

Margins in tillage farming are tight with exposure to large expenditure and significant risk such as the unpredictable nature of Irish weather. While all farmers are at the mercy of the weather; sound planning and best practise crop husbandry can help tillage farmers increase output and reduce costs during both the good years and bad.

Planning and best practise on Neville Furney’s farm
A good example of this is Neville Furney who runs a 400 acre tillage farm in Ardwilling, Cloyne, Co. Cork. Neville puts a strong emphasis on crop rotations, soil sampling and pre-planning fertiliser applications. He credits this approach, coupled with advice from his local Dairygold IASIS qualified tillage advisor, Liam Leahy, with him gradually increasing his yields in recent years. In 2013, he was delighted with yields circa 4.5 tonnes per acre for both Winter Wheat and Winter Barley.

“I strongly believe that crop rotations and a proactive approach to soil nutrient are much more cost effective in the long term and critical in achieving relatively high yields.”

Crop Rotations
He grows a range of cereal crops, including crops for seed, Oilseed Rape, Beans and Beet. While yields of Oilseed Rape and Beans disappointed somewhat in 2013, he believes this was a function of the year and that break crops are critical for the sustainability of his tillage enterprise.

Soil Analysis and Fertiliser Selection
All soils on the farm are sampled on average once every four years with trace element analysis routinely included in the analysis. All lime requirements are regularly applied as this is seen to be the foundation to good cropping.

After studying the crop requirements and soil analysis, Neville balances the need for specific field requirements with practicality; by typically selecting a maximum of two fertiliser blends to fulfil his crops’ macro nutrient requirements as he finds this the most efficient way of completing field operations at farm level. Neville doesn’t limit himself to ‘traditional’ fertiliser compounds, and selects the best fit for his farm.

Wolf Trax
In the last two years, Neville decided to include ‘Wolf Trax’ Manganese and Zinc in his selected compounds; as the soils on his farm are very low in these trace elements and he feels that by including them in the base fertilizers applied pre planting (spring crops) or in the first spring fertilizer application (winter crops) he promotes crucial crop establishment and tiller retention. Typically this means he eliminates the need for further applications of Manganese and Zinc later in the year.