Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Let's all hope for a decent summer

Michael Hennessy

Published 12/01/2010 | 05:00

Once again we are at the starting line looking forward to the journey for another year. Let's hope the weather is a little kinder to us this year than in the past two years.

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The weathermen and women of Met Eireann provide a very good service and get the short-term forecast right most of the time. Time will tell whether the (reasonably accurate) longer-term predictions from wwwpredictweather.co.nz will be as accurate this year as they were last year. At the moment the website is predicting a cold spring with a reasonably poor summer. Many will hope these predictions are inaccurate as a good summer would boost the spirits and incomes of growers and the country in general.

Around this time last year I looked back at the weather of 2008 and commented that it would live in tillage growers' memories as one of the most miserable in living memory. Most would agree last year was much worse. Poor weather, yields and prices left negative margins, with the result that most growers are having to live off what remains of their cash reserves this year.

Met Eireann produces a report at the end of each season outlining the weather over the period. It can be useful to look back at the weather events to see if decisions made could be improved in future, given the same weather conditions.

January was a wet month in the south and west but relatively dry in the rest of the country. February was fairly dry everywhere, but the beginning of the year was cold with significantly more frosts recorded than normal.

Spring (March, April and May) was wetter than normal in the west and the northwest, where up to 43pc more rain than the 30-year average was recorded. March was a relatively dry month everywhere except in the west, but a couple of heavy spells of rain (especially in the west) in April and May kept the total rainfall figures high.

Ploughing began in earnest towards the end of March, and cold, dry air dried out land very quickly. The combination of ploughing and tilling in very dry conditions produced what looked like ideal seed beds, but it masked compaction underneath. As the year progressed this became ever more apparent in crops. Growers equipped with either a press on the plough or who ran a heavy press/roller on the ploughed ground soon after ploughing reaped their rewards later in the year with crops better able to stand up to the wet weather. A wet end to April stopped sowing and, with only a few other planting chances in May, most larger growers had to wait for the end of May for a reasonable dry spell.

Anybody could guess that the rainfall during the summer (June, July and August) was above average, and the third wet summer in a row. Valentia recorded the highest total rainfall (620mm) since records began. June started with a blast, with temperatures reaching nearly 29°C, but the following week temperatures dropped back to 10°C and was accompanied by heavy rain. June was a relatively dry month but very heavy bursts of rain kept soils wet throughout.

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July and August were wetter than normal with Atlantic depressions sweeping over the country every few days. It was the wettest July in more than 50 years as rain fell for most days, therefore making harvesting almost impossible.

August continued in the same vain with more than 1mm of rain recorded on 15-22 days (average figures 10-14 days) in the month. Despite the wet weather and slightly warmer conditions than normal, sprouting was not as big a feature of the harvest as in 2008. However, quite a bit of the harvest was pushed into September.

Those tracking the predictions made in early spring watched in amazement when the weather took up, as predicted, around September 9. The rest of the month was fine and dry, allowing excellent conditions to finish harvesting and to plant winter crops.

October started off dry but soon returned to wetter weather at times during the rest of the month. Heavy rain all but stopped planting near the end of the month and there have been little opportunities since.

November and December continued wet until a dry, cold spell took hold towards the end of the month.

Total rainfall figures from all weather stations across the country will make interesting reading. If the figures from Oak Park's weather station reflect country figures then the country received nearly 40pc more rain than normal last year. So much for the theory that the year's rain generally evens itself out over the 12 months.

Irish Independent