Champion growers say rotation is key to success

Agribusiness All Beef Co-op Corporate Dairy

Former agricultural contractor John Deering is hoping the weather improves in the coming days and that he and his son, Mark, can get out with their machinery and get their crops sown.

The Deering family from Morette, Emo, Co Laois usually aim to have 80-90% of crops sown in the autumn but that just wasn’t possible this year because of the weather. They’re optimistic though and they’re ready to go and plan to  sow a variety of crops once again on their land, most of which is rented from retired farm families around them.

The main crop grown on the mostly light, free-draining soil is Cassia winter barley. Break crops used on the farm are winter oilseed rape, spring beans, winter gluten free oats and winter food grade oats. Winter wheat and contracted spring barley are also grown.

“Last year was a tough year and we were way back on 2022, which was one of our best years ever,” John Deering explained after the family were announced as dual award winners, being awarded both the Food Grade Oats category as well as the Overall Award  at this year’s Tirlán Quality Grain Awards.

“Our spring barley was back about 30% on our usual yield, winter wheat was about the same. Our winter barley and oilseed rape were back about 10% due to the field conditions. They are hard losses to take. Input costs were higher and only that we had a very good 2022 it would have been much tougher for us and for all the other growers around us. There isn’t much you can do about it but continue on.

“We were fortunate to have grown premium crops such as gluten free oats. They suit the soil type and our field sizes. We plan to sow them again as soon as weather permits. The spring yield is likely to be slightly down on autumn sown but on the plus side, it’s a crop that doesn’t seem to mind the wet weather.

Weather impacts

“We had taken a decision before the bad weather last year to move from a plough-based establishment system to min till. We did this for sustainability reasons, and to also cut down on labour and on fuel. It posed a big challenge when the weather turned bad. If we had ploughed, we would have brought up dryer ground.

“For 2024, we plan to still manage about 85% min till but we have to plough some of the land. We have no other option. We’d hope to be back to 100% again but not this year unfortunately.

Because we’ve had such a wet Autumn, we’ve sown less autumn crops.

“We keep hoping that the rain will stop. It has to at some time! Our fear now would be that the longer the rain keeps going that we might have a very dry summer. But you have to be optimistic in this type of farming. We’re still energised by a great 2022 and that keeps us optimistic.”

Rotation & Sustainability

Rotation is key for the Deerings, as is keeping a close eye on establishing crops. Mark helps John with the crop husbandry and is a qualified Agricultural Mechanic who also tends to all of the farm machinery. Ann has a keen eye for establishing crops and keeps an eagle eye on the gluten free oats in particular to ensure that no volunteer barley creeps through.

John says there’s no real secret to their success in winning the Overall Award for 2023. “We’re very strong on rotation and we use some organic manure such asburnt chicken litter, to regenerate the soil. We keep an eye on the little things but to be honest, there are as good farmers around us. It was a lovely surprise to win and it’s given us a lovely lift.

A nicer life

“We work very well together and we all play to our strengths. We really, really enjoy what we do and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I started out as a contractor but got into farming in 1991 when the farm retirement scheme came in and I got an opportunity to rent land from a few farmers around me. It’s a much nicer life.

“You have to love what you do and you have to take the rough with the smooth, particularly when it comes to weather. I do a bit of haulage work as well so when we can’t do anything here, I’m busy with that. It keeps us all going.”

The winning crop had an average specific weight of 57.8 kph at 17.6% moisture across 214 tonnes and incidentally was a crop of gluten free oats. John’s Tirlán agronomist is Tim Scott.


First Published 25 March 2024


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