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Tillage growers urged to avoid sowing cereals despite spring-like conditions

Tillage growers have been warned not to get carried away with early spring sowings, despite near-perfect seedbed conditions in many parts of the country.

Teagasc tillage expert Jim O'Mahony issued the warning amid reports that farmers in the south of the country have already put seed in the ground.

"Margins are going to be tight enough for 2012 and growers cannot afford to take risks," he said.

"While you might get away with sowing beans because they are sown deeper, I would be very wary of sowing cereals in the second half of January."

The Teagasc expert said it would be extremely difficult to keep crows off emerging crops and there was nothing much to be gained by sowing so early.

His advice was echoed by fellow tillage adviser Michael Hennessy, who warned farmers they were still at least two weeks too early.

"Birds and frost could still be a problem," he maintained.

With winter cereal acreage significantly up on previous years, it remains to be seen whether this will result in a fall in spring sowings.

The winter wheat area is estimated to have increased by 10pc on 2011 to 85,000ha, while winter barley is estimated to be 45,000ha.

The area of winter oats is estimated to have fallen 10pc to 8,000ha, but good forward prices for winter oilseed rape drove sowings up to 15,000ha.

While a certain amount of substitution between winter and spring crops is expected, high cattle prices could play a role in increasing the acreage of spring crops.

"Farmers who can't afford to buy cattle might put in more cereals," said Mr O'Mahony.

Meanwhile, cereal seed suppliers have urged farmers to place their seed orders early to avoid any delay in deliveries.

While seed price lists have not yet been issued, suppliers and merchants have warned of a €15-20/t increase for 2012, due to higher harvest prices, increased diesel and treatment costs.

Indo Farming