Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Why a move back to bean harvesting could save tillage sector from collapse

Contractor Michael Nolan harvested Fuego variety beans recently for Stephen Kelly, Booldurragh, Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones
Contractor Michael Nolan harvested Fuego variety beans recently for Stephen Kelly, Booldurragh, Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones

Claire McCormack

A move back to bean harvesting could save the tillage sector from looming collapse, an agri expert has said.

As calls for more variation in the sector rise, Dr Fiona Doohan, senior lecturer, UCD School of Biology, stresses that the sector should go back to its traditional roots.

"Beans are a very high-value product that used to be grown much more widespread in Ireland, and for various cultural reasons we have moved away from beans.

"I think there is a very big gain to be made by moving back to producing more beans - they are a high-protein product, especially if it's for animals, with very little harvesting," she said.

Major advantages of growing bean crops include: less fertiliser needed, beans leave soil more fertile and they have a very high protein level.

"The margins can be very good if you have the right market - it's a no-brainer for animal feed, especially for organic animals," she said.

Dr Fiona Doohan
Dr Fiona Doohan

Growing emphasis on physical fitness and diet and a rise in 'flexitarianism' - where a generally plant-based diet is supplemented with the occasional consumption of meat - also suggest that greater demand for plant protein is on the horizon.

John Spink, Head of Crop Science at Teagasc, says that we can't diversify crops without firstly developing new markets. "Developing markets that require a specific product, rather than just growing something and hoping at harvest that you'll get a decent price, is the best way for farmers to reduce exposure to variability in market price."

Pointing to the potentially large expansion in the whiskey industry in Ireland, Mr Spink says the industry could develop brands that are produced with 100pc Irish cereals.

"In Ireland, we produce some of the best wheat that could be used for distilling in the world; we produce very high-starch, very low-protein wheat, which should produce very high-alcohol yield when it's processed."

"Why aren't we developing that market at the same time as developing production and sharing the rewards across the supply chain?

"There is opportunity for significantly increasing our exports of high-value oats. Because we are relatively small-scale, we have the opportunity to develop high-value export markets without driving down global prices."


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