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Saturday 20 January 2018

Grass growth doubles as higher temperatures boost silage crops

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Grass growth rates more than doubled across the country in the past week as soil temperatures exceeded 14 degrees.

The surge in grass growth has boosted grass supply on farms and bulked up silage crops, although silage yields remain significantly below par.

Figures from Teagasc's Pasture Base grass growth database showed a 240pc increase in grass growth in Newtownforbes, Co Longford, over the past month. During the first three weeks in May growth was just 50kg dry matter per hectare per day (DM/ha/day), compared to just 120kg DM/ha/day last week.

Grass growth in Emly, Co Tipperary doubled, rising from 52kg DM/ha/day in early May to 102kg DM/ha/day last week.

In Ballyhaise, grass growth rose from 52kg DM/ha/day to 70kg DM/ha/day, while in Athenry growth increased from 55kg to 102kg DM/ha/day last week.

Increases of between 20pc and 59pc were recorded at Moorepark (52pc), Kilkenny (51pc), Clonakilty (22pc), Johnstown Castle (20pc) and Hospital, Co Limerick (59pc).

The growth rates relate to grazing ground only and not silage ground. However, Vincent Griffiths of Teagasc Moorepark said growth rates on silage ground would have been higher than grazing ground.

In a complete reversal of fortunes for farmers on heavy soils, Mr Griffiths said that if dry weather continued, growth rates on heavier soils were likely to be higher than drier soils as water became a limiting factor to grass growth.

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Meanwhile, first-cut silage harvesting continued in earnest over the weekend, with contractors reporting some bulking up of crops. However, silage yields remain 25pc-40pc behind normal in most crops.

Clonmel-based contractor Michael Sheehan said most of the 700ac of silage he had harvested yielded 7-12t/ac, compared to 12-14t/ac in an average year.

GRAZED

"Any fields that were grazed were way back on yield but areas that were either not grazed or grazed early before closing are yielding well for the year that's in it," he remarked.

Fellow Tipperary contractor John Graves said yields were back 25pc from 12t/ac to 9t/ac in the Dundrum/Cashel area.

In Cork, Mallow contractor Timmy O'Brien said yields were down two round bales per acre to 6-7 bales/ac.

"Crops are light but farmers are cutting ahead of time in the hope of getting a good second crop," he said.

Sean O'Connor from Kanturk began harvesting a week ago and so far crops have yielded five bales per acre, compared to a normal year where 12 bales/ac would be expected.

Yield expectations in the west are varied, with Ballinasloe contractor Gerard Bannerton recording yields 66pc below normal in the earliest crops and Don Finn from the same region estimating crops to be down 10-15pc.

In Kerry, Listowel contractor Donal Browne said that while harvesting had only just begun, yields looked to be well back at 9-10t/ac compared to a normal year when 12-14t/ac crops would be expected.

"Silage has really only kicked off in the last few days because farmers were hoping to add bulk to the crop," said Mr Browne. "Fields are very patchy. The ground was so cold and wet that grass just didn't grow in some places."

Irish Independent