Updated: Jan 21, 2021
We know how our varieties perform in trials but what’s even more important is how they perform on farm, and that’s where our Growers Club comes in.
We would like to introduce a new Growers Club member Philip Reck, who is looking forward to sharing his insights and experience with some of our varieties.
Farm manager, Walter Furlong Grain Ltd
Area farmed: 1650ha across Co Wexford, Ireland
Soil types: Well drained loam/clay loams (Clonroche series)
Key crops: Winter wheat, winter barley, winter oats, winter rye, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, spring beans, cover crops
Typical rotation: Winter wheat, barley, rye after breaks of oilseed rape, beans and oats. All spring crops follow cover crops
Cultivations: Min-till, Vaderstad Topdown disc/tine cultivator and Vaderstad Spirit disc drill.
RAGT varieties: RGT Planet
Situated in the sunny south east of Ireland, Walter Furlong Grain Ltd farms 1650ha of cereal and pulses across Co Wexford.
The area’s highly productive soils are well suited to tillage and support a wide range of farm, fruit and vegetable crops.
Add in plentiful rainfall, which averages 1,050mm/year, and the highest solar radiation in the country and it’s no wonder that this corner of Ireland has the potential to produce some of the highest crop yields in Europe.
Farm manager Philip Reck employs a diverse crop rotation (see above). The farm is now split 50:50 between winter and spring cropping, with the latter preceded by cover crops. If time allows during harvest, a summer cover crop is grown to maintain soil structure and allow for later drilling.
As well as opening the door to over-winter cover cropping, spring cropping has played a key role in keeping problem grass weeds down over the past 15 years. In addition, Philip has achieved excellent yields from RGT Planet spring barley, which he has grown since it became commercially available in Ireland through its agent Goldcrop.
“RGT Planet brought spring barley yield potential to another level, capable of matching and surpassing many winter barley crops,” says Philip.
“The variety is capable of producing 10t/ha on our soils. Its vigorous early growth ensures deep rooting to access moisture and nutrients.
“It is also a prolific variety to tiller and, on our soils, we keep the seed rate at or below 300 seeds/sq m. It’s also a very clean variety but does require growth regulation to match its yield potential.”
Philip expects to sow 400ha of RGT Planet at the end of March, following a cover crop of tillage radish, phacelia, buckwheat and balansa clover. Cover crops are a familiar sight on the farm, having been grown since 2006.
“Long-term benefits include increased yield potential, carbon sequestration, improved soil biological activity, improved nutrient availably and improved water holding capacity,” says Philip.
“Cover crops also reduce runoff and erosion, improve infiltration and allow clean water to drain off to water courses.”
Grassweed pressure is low. There is no blackgrass, and brome has been eradicated by the introduction of spring cropping and only growing winter barley after break crops.
Being in a high rainfall area, there can be high disease pressure during the growing season, requiring robust fungicide programmes says Philip, a qualified agronomist. For that reason, slow-developing winter wheat varieties that suit earlier sowing with good disease and quality profiles including good resistance to sprouting are favoured.
As such, he is following the progress of RAGT’s new winter wheat RGT Saki in Ireland with interest. “It looks to have good yield potential and stiff straw, as well as being good on all diseases, and may suit earlier sowing.
“The first commercial crops are being grown this year in Ireland so it will be interesting to see how it performs this harvest with a view to sowing an area this autumn.”
The farm ceased ploughing in 1999 and now employs minimum tillage cultivation practices, which have helped to improve soil structure, reduce fertiliser inputs and leading to an overall more environmentally sustainable enterprise.
“Soil health and organic matter levels are rising in the fields as a result of these practices,” says Philip, who is chairman of conservation agriculture group BASE Ireland.
The farm is in GLAS (Ireland’s green, low-carbon, agri-environment scheme) promoting min-till cultivations, cover crops and biodiversity and Protein Aid Scheme promoting home-grown protein crops. The farm also grows wildflower margins to promote pollinators.
When it comes to farm management, Philip is all ears. Advice, training and collaboration on sustainable production, technologies and human resource management are welcomed and undertaken.
All this, together with Philip’s emphasis on business sustainability, in particular soil health, varietal selection and machinery choice, will continue to drive improvements across the board.