Patrick J Phelan: Underutilised land must be unlocked
Cereal sector should be allowed reach its potential
The future potential of the cereal sector is dependent on the development and evaluation of new varieties and fungicide trials.
Over the past two weeks, there have been a series of open days hosted by the organisations driving this research – Seedtech, Drummonds, Teagasc Oakpark and the Department of Agriculture. This information will help overcome income risk at farm level due to price fluctuations. However, we still have one major limitation which must be overcome – land availability.
It is very frustrating to see top or even average-quality land underutilised. This land is needed by young farmers who want to get a start and by established farmers who have the capacity to do more work.
In 1972, An Foras Taluntais published The Potential of Irish Land for Livestock Production. It stated that, excluding 280,000ha of tillage, Ireland had a stock-carrying potential of 8m livestock units with an input of 48kg/ha of nitrogen and 9.7m livestock units at 230kg/ha.
The Central Statistics Office estimated that in June 2012, Irish agriculture consisted of a total of 297,400ha of cereals and 5.8m livestock units (LU).
This is almost identical to what we had in 1972, so what is going wrong?
An Foras Taluntais identified 2.7m hectares of dry mineral soil with a stocking potential of 2.7LU/ha. I suspect that much of this would now benefit from tillage production for a few years before reseeding.
It also identified a further 670,000ha of wet mineral soils with a stocking-rate capacity of 1.73-2.12 LU/ha, and 1.53m hectares of Class B land with a stocking potential of 1.43LU/ha.