James Robinson – Newtowncunningham Co Donegal

Ground is getting wet in the north-west, explains James.

He says you can see puddles forming on harvested potato ground and he wouldn’t dream of going in to fields to cut hedges.

James's vessel for winter malting barley is coming along well.

However, temperatures are still unseasonably mild, reaching 15°C earlier this week. He says crops and grass are still growing and his store lambs are thriving.

His winter barley crops are developing well despite the wet weather. James says his autumn weed control programme, which consisted of a pre-emerge herbicide of Navigate and DFF, worked very well this year and his crops are clean.

On 15 October, the crops received a trace element spray consisting mainly of manganese and zinc. Applying these elements is important, explains James, to ensure crops remain green over winter. This was applied when ground conditions were still good, so there was no damage done to tramlines.

He will likely have to apply more manganese in February, as his ground is prone to deficiencies.


Crops continue to develop in the mild temperatures. James says he doesn’t think there is a high risk of BYDV in his crops, as he hasn’t seen any aphids in fields. Aphid pressure in his area is generally lower. He also attributes this lower pressure to his grey partridge bird cover margins, which consist of multiple flowering crops.

He says that natural insect predation has helped control aphid populations and he hasn’t had to apply an aphicide in years.


This year, James is growing two winter barley varieties, Tardis for feed and Vessel for malting barley. Both crops are developing well. He says Tardis appears to be fuller and thicker, while Vessel has thinner leaves, but is more vigorous.

All of the Rooster potato crops have now been harvested and he was able to grub most of the field.

He says that if he didn’t grub it in the autumn, then the tractor tracks and drills would be very hard to level next spring.

Norman Dunne – Kilgraigue, Co Meath

Rainfall levels on Norman’s farm have been reasonably low considering the time of year, he explains.

He has enjoyed a dry autumn, which means that ground is able to take the rain when it falls.

Norman's winter barley has established very well.

Like most other areas this week, temperatures have been unseasonably mild and his cover crops, winter cereals, oilseed rape and grass continue to grow.

All of his winter barley crops are looking good, he says. The crops recently received a nutritional spray consisting of magnesium sulfate (5kg/ha), molybdenum (400g/ha), boron (0.5l/ha), seaweed (1l/ha), humic acid (1l/ha) and lactic acid (1l/ha). Norman says this spray mix also acts as a deterrent to aphids and is relatively cheap. He also had to apply a herbicide on these crops as there was meadow grass on the headlands. He applied Griffen at 0.3l/ha. He added seaweed and humic acid into the tank too. He says if he didn’t apply a herbicide in the autumn, then the meadow grass likely couldn’t be controlled in the spring.

Norman’s winter wheat crops also received Griffen, as well as the herbicide Foxtrot (0.6l/ha), in order to take out volunteer oats. He thinks that, as temperatures have been so mild, weed and volunteer growth has been strong. His wheat crop will receive a nutritional spray shortly. He intends to carry out a sap analysis on the crops in the coming weeks. He takes one leaf sample per field and sends it for analysis at a cost of €15/sample. The results help him tailor crop nutrition.

His winter oilseed rape crops are moving along well. He spread 15t/ha of straw and horse manure compost onto the crop after establishment, but questions if the crop is now hungry. He has sown the crop along with winter peas, which he hopes could provide some of its nutritional requirements while growth is so vigorous. He also applied compost and dung onto cover crops last month. Norman is attending the BioFarm conference this week.

Jonathan Kelly – Limavady, Co Derry

Conditions have turned wet in the northwest over the past few weeks, explains Jonathan. Despite this however, he was able to sow most of his planned winter crop area up to the end of October and if things dry up in the next week or two, he would consider planting more.

Jonathan drilling with a 4m Lemken drill with front mounted tank on demo.

Temperatures have been mild however, and crops continue to develop.

His winter oilseed rape, for example, is over a foot in height. He says that while his crops are forward, other crops in the area are further ahead and appear to beginning to flower.

Jonathan finished sowing winter barley two weeks ago, increasing seed rates to 200kg/ha. The crops were drilled with a demo 4m Lemken drill with front mounted tank.

The crop has emerged, but crow control is proving to be an issue. His earlier sown crops are developing well, despite the wet weather.

He intended to apply an autumn aphicide on his winter barley crops, but ground conditions proved to be too poor. He hopes that BYDV won’t be an issue this year. He also says that slug pressure isn’t significant this year, but acknowledged that pressure isn’t normally high on his farm anyway.

All of his cereal crops received either a pre-emerge or post-emerge herbicide of Herald (0.3l/ha) and control has been excellent.

Jonathan’s earlier sown winter wheat crops are all looking very well. He also drilled winter wheat after some of his maize crops at a rate of 190kg/ha. His maize crops were harvested on 16 October.

The crops looked great all year, but the yields of around 16.5t/ac proved disappointing. He thinks the crops may have been harvested a week too late.

His hybrid winter rye crops are looking very good, the last of which was drilled three weeks ago. If conditions dry up in the coming week or two, he will plant more winter rye.

Elsewhere, Jonathan is moving cattle indoors this week and is currently working on cleaning pens.