Analysis: Plight of tillage farmers may have been buried but impact will be felt
This is a spring for the history books and one that will live long in the memory. Planting plans are still changing as seed drills are in fields due to seed availability, land suitability etc. We are all well aware of the forage crisis and the suffering of many farmers and animals.
To say this was a difficult spring is a major understatement and a credit to many farmers who have battled the odds for both themselves and their animals to have survived. Less has been made of the issues concerning tillage growers and yet this is an area that could have longer-term consequences. There has been plenty of talk in relation to the three crop rule being abandoned for the year but the exact details on how any proposed derogation would work have yet to be confirmed.
What is in no doubt is that there is a significant reduction in the winter cereal acreage and a likely significant reduction in spring wheat and beans. There will now be a tendency to plant only spring barley wherever and whenever possible. A good seed bed and good sowing conditions are now even more vital.
There is an opportunity to look at different crop mixes and help the fodder situation next autumn. Both fodder beet and maize are very good options and, under the circumstances, would not be yet considered late. Yields and returns from these crops can be very attractive, however it is vital that contracts or agreements are in place with feeders to ensure that these products find an end market.
There is also no doubt that the break crops planted will be significantly affected but one crop which could still be considered and can be planted late is spring oil seed rape. This crop, if sown late, will generally tend to be sown without the use of herbicides as it grows quickly and can generally effectively smother emerging weeds. It can be a relatively easy and inexpensive crop to grow. If you consider the budgeted input costs for spring barley at approximately €500 per hectare, the inputs for spring rape of €350 compares favourably. An achievable yield of three tonnes of spring rape per hectare compares well with a yield of eight tonnes of spring barley, even allowing for a net straw value of €100 per hectare. It is also likely that spring barley seed will be scarce.
At this stage it might be considered too late to sow beans, however in early, suitable ground the opportunity may still exist and with a likely premium significantly higher than in previous years it may be still a runner.
There is also the option to leave land fallow. Regardless of the three crop rule this is probably the best option for difficult and late land or portions of fields.