With national statistics showing that 86% of tillage soils are low in one or more of the major soil nutrients, management of soil was the 2013 emphasis in Teagasc’s BETTER Farm Crops programme.
This programme aims to increase the profitability and sustainability of three commercial tillage farms.
At the Teagasc national tillage conference, Michael Hennessy thanked the three families, the Crowleys in Cork, the O’Donoghues in Meath, and the Williamsons in Wexford.
They have already hosted 2,000 farmers who attended events on their farms, where 11 major research trials were on view.
Intensive soil sampling and subsequent nutrient balance calculations have resulted in changes of practice on all three farms.
These included increased inputs of phosphate (P) and potash (K), changes in N,P,K compound choices, addition of organic manures — and a realisation that regular soil analysis and tracking of nutrient balance is necessary.
All three entered the BETTER Farm Crops programme returning profits well above the average.
They averaged common profit of €821/ha in 2010, which was 67% higher than equivalent large farms in the National Farm Survey.
Common profit is grain plus straw value, minus all costs except hired labour, interest and land rental.
Common profit is therefore used to pay for land rental, hired labour, interest and a return to the grower.
In 2012. the BETTER farm average common profit per hectare was down to € 668/ha, due to it being a low yielding year, but this was nearly 2.5 times the NFS average.
Two of the three farms rent over 80% of their land, and two of the three have a continuous cereal cropping system. All are farming in excess of 140 hectares. Increased profits were supported by increased output combined with a tight rein on costs.
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