Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Drought takes toll on crop growth and yield

East suffers most as barley predicted to drop below 1t per acre

Donegal's Ivan Scott
competes in the Clik Irish International Open
Sheep Shearing Championship final on his
way to second spot. The event attracted more
than 15,000 spectators to the Cillin Hill
Exhibition Centre in Kilkenny
Donegal's Ivan Scott competes in the Clik Irish International Open Sheep Shearing Championship final on his way to second spot. The event attracted more than 15,000 spectators to the Cillin Hill Exhibition Centre in Kilkenny
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Prolonged drought in eastern counties is causing crop losses and forcing livestock farmers to supplement scarce grass with silage and concentrate.

Cereal crops are burning up and grass supplies are waning as soil moisture deficits of 40-50mm take their toll from Louth to Wexford.

Rainfall was below average almost everywhere this spring, according to Met Eireann, but it is the eastern half of the country that is suffering most with the driest spring since 1990.

With as little as 11mm of rain since March in some places, farmers are now facing yield losses in cereals, beet, rape, potato and grass crops according to crop advisers.

"The flag leaves on the winter wheat are curling up for want of moisture, they won't yield well," said Louth-based Colm McDonnell. He added that there was growing concern that crops would ripen prematurely unless there was significant rainfall in the coming days. The winter wheat on his farm eared two weeks ahead of normal on June 1.

Drogheda-based Teagasc adviser Conor Dobson said suckler farmers were feeding hay and silage to cattle in the fields in an effort to slow down the rotation. "Farmers are crying out for rain here, with a very slow recovery in grass growth after grazing and silage," he pointed out.

Beef farmers in Kildare have less than a week's grass in front of their animals, according to Teagasc adviser Ivan Whitten.

"Everyone is talking about the drought in the UK and France but it's a lot closer than that," he insisted. "It's impossible to quantify the effect on yield but some late-sown spring barley crops won't cut 1t/ac."

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In Wicklow, Carnew mart manager David Quinn said some farmers who reseeded land in April were forced to go back into the fields again two weeks ago due to the lack of rain. "And they're not even confident that the second reseed will take off," he added.

Cattle producers in the county are supplementing stock with silage and concentrate feeding to compensate for non-existent grass supplies.

Lamb growth has also been affected by the drought, according to Tullow mart manager John Murphy.

"I noticed it first a fortnight ago," he said. "Lambs were coming in longer and drier in the wool and they haven't improved since. Farmers are supplementing with meals to keep sheep going."

IFA potato expert Matt Molloy said the dry conditions were having a devastating effect on crops in the southeast. Despite irrigating crops night and day, some producers were recording early season crop yields of only half what they produced last year.

Dairy farmers along the east coast and into the south east are feeding silage and up to 4kg of meal to supplement poor grazing, said Teagasc dairy adviser George Ramsbottom.

Meanwhile, downpours have broken the dry spell across parts of Europe but it could be too late for crops that have already been burned up. Parts of northern France received 76mm in just 24 hours on Sunday, while parts of southern England got more than an inch. Central and western Germany got rain but the northern part of the country remained dry over the weekend.

Indo Farming

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