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Cold snap fears for winter cereal crops

Cereal growers face massive losses in the winter oats crop following the recent cold snap.

Tillage farmers are bracing themselves for significant losses and the harsh reality of having to plough up crops sown last autumn.

Where crops are destroyed, farmers face minimum losses of €140/ac to get a new crop into the ground, as well as the additional costs of spraying.

The IFA's new tillage chairman Ned Delaney said the crop losses could be 100pc, 50pc or just pockets in fields.

"We really won't know until a week or two after the frost lifts whether the crop is dying or not," Mr Delaney explained.

However, the Tipperary farmer added that he lost a winter oats crop in 1979 when temperatures dipped to -15°C.

"The water in the top layer of soil freezes and expands, pulling the root of the plant from the stem," he added.

"If that has happened, the only option will be to plough it up and sow a spring crop."

IFA tillage vice-chairman Tom Shortt was also pessimistic about the crop's survival chances.

"It's too early to know yet but the biggest concern is Barra oats," he said. "It got 20 days of sub-zero temperatures and we could be looking at a total wipe out."

Mr Shortt also expressed fears for late sown winter wheat crops.

Teagasc tillage specialist Jim O'Mahony said it was still too early to predict the extent of the damage done to crops.

He said that the advisory body would not make a comment on the situation for at least another week, at which point the situation in the fields would be much clearer.

Irish Independent