Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

It's a tale of two climates

Abbie Slacke with the first of 2016's daffodils at Elmgrove Farm, Gormanston, Co Meath
Abbie Slacke with the first of 2016's daffodils at Elmgrove Farm, Gormanston, Co Meath
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

It's a tale of two climates with Irish weather at the moment.

While farmers in river catchments struggle to cope with some of the most prolonged flooding in living memory, an unseasonably mild December has resulted in unprecedented levels of growth in drier areas.

Daffodils are the most visible sign of spring growth that is up to one month ahead of normal, but vegetable producers are also struggling to cope with daily temperatures of 12C.

"We're cutting cauliflowers now that were programmed for February, and it won't be long before we move into March's supply," said Lusk vegetable grower, Denis Harford.

"I really don't think that there is going to be any Irish cauliflowers around by St Patrick's day," he said.

Grass growth also hit a record high in 2015, on the back of a unseasonably high temperatures throughout the back-end.

"Grass production was 14.1t of drymatter per hectare in 2015, 0.2t higher than the previous high that was set in 2014," said Teagasc's grass expert, Michael O'Donovan.

He has been averaging grass growth figures from farms all over the country through Teagasc's PatureBase system for the last number of years.

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With grass continuing to grow on farms throughout the winter, the challenge for farmers will be to get good enough conditions to allow it to be grazed before it is hit by any late cold spell, which could kill a lot of the over-winter growth.

While patches of tillage ground have been hit by the flooding for the first time ever, cereal experts don't believe that the areas affected will seriously impact on overall yields.

"Crops under water for 10-14 days will die, but for the patches that are affected, it probably won't justify reseeding," said Teagasc's Michael Hennessey.

"Aphids could be a problem because the numbers won't have dropped, but there's not much that growers can do right now. Better just to focus on getting through the paperwork for now."

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