As everyone knows we have gone through two great extremes of weather over the last twelve months.
From a situation where we had nearly continuous rainfall for eight to nine months, we now have a period of drought with I have never witnessed before in my lifetime.
The closest I have come to it was in 1976 but I was too young to remember the full extent of that drought bar travelling to the local pump with my father to collect water to bring home to our livestock.
As everyone knows there has been a complete collapse in grass growth and it is now only around 25% of what it would normally be. I have outlined some of the key messages regarding nitrogen usage and coping with drought conditions.
Farms suffering from drought: Where growth has stopped and where fertiliser has been applied with no breakdown, nitrogen spreading should cease.
Heavy soils still growing grass: Nitrogen should still be spread on farms that are still growing grass to maximise growth rates. Any fertiliser being spread should include sulphur.
Second cut silage: On heavier farms with some grass cover there will be some response to nitrogen usage.
On drier farms with no grass cover the response will be limited and will require a good quantity of rainfall to promote grass growth.
Key Drought Messages for Future Plant Growth
In a drought, spring tillers die and the remaining tillers are stressed. The period following drought is critical to allow autumn tillering to occur, otherwise pastures will thin out over autumn, production will be poor, and weeds will invade.
Plants that are still alive but growing slowly due to lack of moisture can quickly recover, green up, and be back into production.
Dormant plants where above-ground parts have died back, but buds at ground level are surviving, can begin tillering from these buds when rain falls.
New green shoots can be seen in the base of dead pasture within one to two weeks after rainfall, but recovery in terms of pasture growth rates will still be some weeks away.
Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Roscommon Town (Tel: 090 6626166), Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), You can find us on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford.
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