Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Fears over yields as harvest gets rolling

Farmers count cost of sodden summer as south starts cutting

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Harvest 2012 began in earnest over the weekend, with growers in the south of the country starting cutting.

While tillage farmers have welcomed the improved weather conditions, it is already too late to reverse the damage done to yields.

Winter barley crops harvested so far in the south are yielding 2.9t to 3.2t/ac at 20pc to 22pc moisture.

Overall, the winter barley harvest is expected to be down 30,000t or 10pc on last year's crop. IFA grain chairman Noel Delany said heavy rainfall, unusually low temperatures and poor sunshine levels had taken their toll on crops.

"On a per acre basis, the tonnage could fall from 3.6t to 2.8t," he predicted.

Six-row varieties appear to have taken more of a hit than the more traditional two-row varieties, according to agronomists.

Unlike their southern counterparts, growers further north are reporting very difficult soil conditions, with waterlogged tramlines in fields.

The harvest is already running up to a fortnight late in many cases and a prolonged dry spell will be needed before land in the midlands and other areas will be fit to carry combines and machinery.

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Growers also face losses due to poor quality grain, with payment reductions likely for low bushel weights.

Teagasc tillage adviser Ivan Whitten described the month of June as a "perfect storm" for disease.

"We had a long flowering period this year, at 21 days instead of the usual 7-10 days, combined with little or no sunshine," he explained. "That left crops open to very high levels of disease, including fusarium and septoria."

An IFA survey of crops around the country has shown a sharp decrease in the expected yield of all crops. The survey compared current yield expectations with those expected in May, which was the 10-year average yield

Forecasted yields for winter barley have been revised downwards from 3.23t/ac to 2.83t/ac this month. Similarly, the expected spring barley yield has fallen to 2.69t/ac.

Winter wheat yields are expected to fall from the May estimate of 3.74t/ac to 3.5t/ac, while spring wheat forecasts have dropped marginally, going from 3.05t/ac to 2.95t/ac.

The winter oat crop appears to be holding its own, with no change to the expected 3.18t/ac yield forecast.

However, the spring oat crop is performing even better, with yields expected to increase from 2.65t/ac, as forecast in May, to 3.04t/ac.

Grain buyers have flagged up major doubts about the chances of winter wheat making the grade for milling, while there is also a question mark about the amount of spring barely that will be suitable for malting.

Meanwhile, international grain futures prices continue to rise as the drought-stricken US maize and soyabean crops generate more negative headlines. November 2012 dried wheat on the LIFFE was traded at £193.50/t last week, while milling wheat on the Paris MATIF traded at €268.25/t.

However, industry experts have warned that despite the high prices, very little physical grain is being traded. The majority of contracts are being bought and sold by speculators and not compounders or millers, giving a false sense of demand for grain.

Closer to home, the latest prices on offer from Glanbia were €196/t for green barley and €201/t for green wheat, both for September collection. These prices are €31/t higher than those offered in the past month.

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