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Colm Fingleton: More research needed if we’re to be serious about producing distilling barley

April has been very dry which was great for getting land work up to date but the month finished with low temperatures which has slowed down growth a bit, writes Colm Fingleton in this week's column

I attended the most recent Teagasc Spring Seminar, on the farm of David Walsh-Kemis, outside Stradbally in Laois.

Shay Phelan from Teagasc was on hand to discuss options for the coming season and while there was some discussion on disease control on winter wheat and barley, the majority of time was spent on spring barley.

April has been very dry which was great for getting land work up to date but the month finished with low temperatures which has slowed down growth a bit. When you get into May, things generally start to move fairly quickly in growth terms, and decisions need to be made on what to apply to your crop.

Spring barley is fast approaching weed control stage, and options will depend on field history and weeds present. Applications will most likely be a combination of possibly one the following; Ally/Cameo/Calibre/Hussar etc mixed with CMPP, Starane or Hi Mircam (Foundation).

Inclusion of an aphicide is advisable if counts are high, and especially in later sown crops to protect from BYDV. I have found that Hussar can give control on wild oats and grasses but not guaranteed. Trace elements, especially Manganese/Magnesium, should be applied where required and when there is good crop canopy to avoid any setback of crop.

One of the areas that had a lot of discussion on the day was distilling barley. Most malting/distilling crops have received their nitrogen at this stage. There remains a huge grey area around producing distilling barley. Less nitrogen use – in an effort to reduce proteins – will likely incur a yield loss which is risky for the grower, especially in the absence of a premium for this.

Teagasc research shows that reduced nitrogen is no guarantee of lower protein and yield loss could be as high as 0.85 ton/ha.

A lot more research is surely needed if we are to be serious about supplying distilling barley into a increasing market while ensuring a proper return to growers. Growers are are not happy with the current setup and would require a scaled premium over brewing barley or a straight premium in order to incentivise them to grow distilling at the protein levels required currently.

Sprayer testing

Sprayer testing is something we have to do now and it seems there are still a lot of sprayers yet to tested. While there have been some crazy schemes introduced over the years for farmers to adhere to, this is not one of them.

Having your sprayer working efficiently with all parts of your machine tested can only be beneficial and cost effective long term. Tests will last between three to five years, depending on when it was tested and if your buying a new one there is no test for the first five years.

Basic Payment Scheme

It’s worth keeping in mind that the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application deadline is fast approaching and all applications must be completed by May 15.

SEE ALSO – Farm contractors appealing for tractor ‘NCT’ to be deferred

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Colm Fingleton is a tillage farmer based in Ratheniska near Stradbally. He is well known in farming circles and a regular contributor to farming media. Colm was one of the host farmers for the National Ploughing Championships when they were held in Ratheniska from 2013 to 2015. He has a keen interest in all things motoring from classics to performance, motor events, car clubs and racing.