Cereals essential for stock wellbeing
Self-sufficiency is one of the common goals for organic farmers across the EU. If possible livestock farmers will produce cereals for use on the farm. Mixed farming is the normal practice in organics, however there are excellent opportunities for farmers who can grow excess cereals to export off farm.
Two and a half pc of the total EU cereal area is organic. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland are the largest producers of organic cereals in the EU.
Among the constraints that impede the expansion of cereals are weed management and pest control.
Development of cereal varieties that can be used without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is slow, and this may also impact on the levels of organic cereals produced in the EU.
That said for many farmers organic cereals are valuable crops as prices paid are high.
In Ireland the total organic cereal area is approximately 2,313ha, with 156 growers. Most organic tillage crops are traded dried from farm to farm.
In 2013, wheat, barley and oats made between €320/t and €345/t, with peas, beans and combi-crops making €400/t. Prices paid to Irish growers are generally slightly above those paid in the UK, which are again above those paid in mainland Europe.
Organic yields are lower than conventional yields, and it is essential to have soil fertility right to maximise crop yields.