Drought takes toll on crop growth and yield
East suffers most as barley predicted to drop below 1t per acre
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."