Cereal sowings hit hard by wet weather

Caitriona Murphy

Winter cereal sowings in Britain and Ireland have been decimated by wet weather and waterlogged soils.

Plantings of winter wheat are estimated to be down by as much as 40-50pc in Ireland, while winter oats acreage is also back by 50-60pc, compared to 2012 levels.

Winter barley sowings are also running 25pc behind the previous year, according to Teagasc tillage expert Jim O'Mahony.

Waterlogged fields and pest damage from birds and slugs have also taken their toll, with some farmers reporting that whole fields will need to be ploughed up.

With just 34,000 to 36,000ha of winter wheat sown so far, farmers may decide to switch to spring crops instead. However, they may be in for a shock, with seed companies warning of a shortage of spring cereal seed.

"Spring barley seed is in short supply in Ireland," warned Jim Gibbons of Germinal Seeds.

"Seed companies are about 17pc short of the 2012 spring barley sowings."

He also warned of shortages in spring wheat varieties.

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"We are finding it hard to get replacement seed in Europe," he said. "Our first port of call would usually be Britain but they are also short of seed."

British wheat sowings are back 12pc compared to 2012, while winter barley area is down 9pc and up to 10pc of the drilled area is at risk of being destroyed by winter kill.

Meanwhile, Teagasc has begun a series of regional spring tillage seminars which will continue until February 20.

The Teagasc National Tillage Conference will take place on Thursday, January 31, at the Lyrath Hotel, Kilkenny.

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