Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Consider forward selling of wheat and barley stocks

Willow is harvested at the Farrelly Brothers open day in Kells, Co Meath
Willow is harvested at the Farrelly Brothers open day in Kells, Co Meath
Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

We have just experienced some of the best sowing conditions we might reasonably expect. This has led to a renewed interest in planting of winter cereals.

The acreage of winter oilseed rape has increased by more than two-and-a-half times, to a high of about 9,000ha. Winter barley has easily doubled, as has wheat, especially when home-saved seed is factored in. There are varying reports on the winter oat acreage planted and, if some of the figures currently indicated are correct, there will be enormous pressure on oat prices next autumn.

After a few difficult autumns, the area of cereals sown appears to have shifted back towards winter sowings, with spring barley now unlikely to greatly exceed the 50pc of total planting next year, and winter wheat is likely to make up a quarter of the total cereal area planted.

Forward selling of wheat and barley must be considered. Some of the more organised growers have locked in wheat prices for November next year, at prices around €170/t. Unfortunately, forward prices seem to have slipped slightly and are now just below the €170/t mark. If €170/t or more can be obtained, growers would do well to sell forward a portion -- minimum 20-33pc -- of their expected output.

I believe a €5 differential with barley should be more likely next year. Selling now for a definite price reduces your gamble and allows for better planning, especially when trying to sort out bank facilities for next year.

It is now too late to sow barley or oats. However, wheat or triticale can still be sown. More care and attention should now be taken when considering what fields to sow. Remember, from now on, weather conditions for seed germination and plant development and growth will be deteriorating. The more north facing, the heavier, wetter and colder a field is, the longer seed will take to germinate and the greater the number of problems that will be experienced.

Winter wheat seed has become scarce, with mainly imported seed only available. This will only add to your costs, so carefully consider all the factors. Early sown spring wheat or barley will get off to a quicker start next year and, more than likely, give better returns.

In the fields, all winter barley and early sown oats and wheat should have received an insecticide spray at this stage. A second insecticide application should be considered for all early sown crops which received their first spray more than three weeks ago. Frosty mornings will help to curtail aphid activity, but this issue is still there during the day when temperatures rise -- and there is still the danger of barley yellow dwarf virus.

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Autumn herbicides should now also be considered. Crops have emerged well, seed bed conditions were excellent, weeds are nicely germinated and, especially if you know your fields and weed spectrum, significant savings can be made in this area.

There is an excellent choice of autumn herbicides available that will control all problems. However, knowing what you must control could mean a cost of €7 + VAT/ac versus a spend of up to €14/ac. When choosing your product it is not the few euro for each five litres that you save when shopping around that gives the best value; the real savings are delivered by choosing the most suitable product for your situation.

Finally, I would implore the Department of Agriculture to immediately pay out the full 50pc advance of the single farm payment to the remaining farmers who have received either little or no payment so far.

The unpaid 50pc will still be available to the Department should reductions be required. The Department appears to have no concept of the hardship that this delay in payment is having on farmers.

Pat Minnock is an agricultural consultant, Carlow. He is also president, of the ACA and a member of the ITCA. To contact him, visit

Irish Independent