The dry spell at the end of September and early October allowed contractor, Darren Russell, to plant a 20ac crop of Spearhead winter wheat on behalf of a local dairy farming client.

The ground is situated in the townland of Killead, close to Belfast International Airport in south Co. Antrim.

“The fields had previously been in grass. They were sprayed off with glyphosate at the end of September,” Russell explained.

“The ground then received a combined dressing of dairy cattle slurry and farmyard manure. The slurry was spread at a rate of 3,000g/ac.

“To be honest we ran out of slurry, why is why some of the ground received farmyard manure.”

Ploughing followed as soon as the glyphosate had completed its work.

“The crop was sown out using a one-pass, 3m drill on October 7,” Russell continued.

“It established very well, which allowed us to apply a herbicide on October 17.”

The crop of Spearhead winter wheat was sown-out with a 3m drill

Russell opted for ‘Shooter’ from BASF. The active ingredients are flufenacet and pendimethalin.

The herbicide delivers broad control of grass and broadleaf weeds in barley and wheat crops.

“This should provide the new wheat crop with the weed control required over the coming weeks,” he said. “It essentially seals the crop.”

When it came to sowing the crop, Russell switched to a set of 900 tyres on the tractor pulling the drill.

“We put in 15m tramlines, which ties in well with the sprayer and the drill size that we work with,” he explained.

“We normally use the broader tyres when putting out slurry. But ground in south Antrim tends to be quite heavy.

“Like the rest of the country we have had a lot of rain this year and ground conditions remain very challenging,” he added.

The contractor explained that the one possible downside to using the 900 tyres with a 3m seed drill was the fact they covered the entire width of the new seed bed.

“But all worked out well in the end. The new crop has germinated and is looking tremendous at the present time,” he said.

The wheat was sprayed with Shooter on October 17

Darren Russell does not spray winter cereals for Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV).

“We don’t have a problem with the disease in this part of the world. Despite the wet conditions, there is no sign of slug damage in the newly drilled wheat,” he confirmed.

“South Antrim is not a traditional cereal growing area. The soils are a little bit on the heavy side. Most of the crops sown out would be destined for the silo.

“However, the Spearhead wheat will be combined. The farmer in question grows about 50ac of cereals annually in preparation for a grass reseed.

“Winter wheat is sown in the autumn with barley and rye to follow in the spring.”

Russell has sown out about 120ac of winter crop, in total, over recent weeks – all winter wheat.

“Normally, we would have a lot more crop in the ground at this stage. But the dreadful weather has made field work almost impossible,” he concluded.