THE brilliant sunshine and high temperatures of the last fortnight look set to deliver a harvest bonus for the country's tillage farmers as they look for better than expected yields on crops.
Combines started to roll into fields in south Tipperary and west Cork yesterday as the harvest for 2013 kicked off.
Over the next three months close to 600,000 acres of cereals will be cut in a harvest worth close to €300m.
The expectations for the cereal harvest have been revised upwards by at least 100,000 tonnes, according to the state research body Teagasc.
After a dismal start to the growing season, crops have improved out of measure in the past six weeks, prompting Teagasc to predict a harvest of around two million tonnes.
Teagasc cereals expert Jim O'Mahony said compensatory growth over the past month to six weeks had increased the yields of all crops since May.
"We had been predicting a harvest of 1.9 million tonnes in early May but crops have improved a fierce amount and now we're looking at close on two million tonnes," he said.
Mr O'Mahony predicted yields of 3.1 tonnes per acre for winter barley, the first of the crops to be harvested every year. One of the first farmers in the fields this harvest was Jimmy Purcell, who farms at Orchardstown, Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
The combine started cutting at 3pm yesterday, and the word from the field was that the machine was filling fast.
Mr Purcell said the crop of winter barley was looking good and he was confident it would beat last year's yield of 3.5 tonnes to the acre.
IFA tillage chairman Noel Delany said the earliest crops would consist of early ripening barley varieties.
He said the extra volume of grain would be needed by farmers to compensate for grain prices that are €50 per tonne lower than last year.
The latest price offering from merchants was €137 per tonne for green barley and €154 per tonne for green wheat at harvest.
A bumper US grain harvest has put downward pressure on world and Irish grain prices, although there are murmurings from commentators that hot weather forecast for America's midwest corn belt could curtail the potential yields.
see Farming Supplement