Monday 26 September 2016

Winter grain yields could still break all records

Published 09/09/2015 | 02:30

The weather has led to record grain yields
The weather has led to record grain yields

It may have been a cooler and wetter summer for most during 2015, but grain crops have thrived with record yields flagged for many winter cereals.

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While a world record winter wheat yield of 6.7t/ac was set a few weeks ago in Lincolnshire, Irish growers have also been reporting up to 6t/ac from the first of the crop to be cut in the south last week.

Many of the better growers are reporting average yields of 5.1-5.5t/ac, according to Teagasc's Michael Hennessy.

"The cool year with lots of water availability during July really suited the crop, and I think this year's yields could beat anything we've seen for the last 20 years," he said.

The grain specialist also believes that winter barley averages of 4.1-4.4t/ac will equal, if not better, previous records.

Hectolitre weights

"Two-row crops were yielding 5.1-5.3t/ac in Oak Park, with superb hectolitre weights in the seventies. That's equivalent to wheat, and up to 10 points better than the six-row varieties," said Mr Hennessy.

However, bumper crops both here and on the Continent have depressed prices further to €135-140/t for green barley, with just €5-10/t extra for wheat off the combine. Dried prices are €20/t higher.

A grain update from the IFA acknowledged that prices could have fallen more had harvesting conditions here allowed more progress to date.

Weather conditions have been very wet in some regions - Donegal endured close to 400mm of rain during June, July and August. But most crops have held up well with little or no losses encountered so far.

"Winter barleys averaged at 3.5-4t/ac, and while there has been very little winter wheat harvested so far, it is standing up well and very little losses so far," said Teagasc Donegal tillage specialist, Martin McCullough.

Agronomists further south have also remarked on how disease free crops have been all year.

"Anything that was missed by spray programmes turned totally black, but Septoria was controlled very well this year, which bodes well," said Tipperary advisor, PJ Phelan.

"Winter wheat growers got a real shot in the arm this year, with some incredible yields. I've seen 6.3t/ac crops, and over 5t/ac in continuous wheat scenarios."

Winter oilseed rape crops also yielded well with yields of 1.8-2.2t/ac, according to Teagasc. At least 30pc of the malting barley and spring barley crops remain to be harvested, with the spring wheat and spring oats harvest barely started.

However, prices continue to slide as reports of a good US maize harvest begin to filter in.

"This has turned out to be one of those years when it really paid to take the €20-25/t premium that was on offer earlier in the summer. More and more farmers are beginning to realise that selling a little and often throughout the season is the way to go," said Mr Hennessy.

Growers are also facing agronomy challenges, with the spread of pesticide resistant weeds such as sterile brome and aphids becoming more common across the country.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see the KDR resistant aphid spread around Ireland in the same way as has happened in the UK," said Mr Hennessy.

The Teagasc national tillage forum takes place in the Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge tomorrow at 2pm.

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