Farm Ireland

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Fall in winter barley yields will cost tillage farmers €10m

The lower barley yield equates to an income hit of between €10m and €10.5m for grain growers
The lower barley yield equates to an income hit of between €10m and €10.5m for grain growers
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The surprise drop in winter barley yields will cost tillage farmers more than €10m this harvest.

Early projections for this year's winter barley crop put average yields at around 3.3t/ac, around 0.5t/ac back on the 2016 harvest. Across the 150,000ac sown, this will result in a 75,000t drop in output.

The lower barley yield equates to an income hit of between €10m and €10.5m for grain growers at current green barley prices of €135-140/t.

Industry sources expect overall winter barley production to be back around 170,000t on last year since this harvest's lower yields have been compounded by a 26,000ac drop in the area planted to the crop.

Early prediction of the overall cereals harvest suggest that the total grain yield could be 260,000t lower than 2016.

Trade and IFA forecasts for the 2017 harvest put the total grain output at 2.04-2.05m tonnes. This is down from 2.31m tonnes for 2016 and 2.6m tonnes for 2015.

IFA grain committee chairman Liam Dunne said the disappointing winter barley harvest highlighted the serious difficulties facing the tillage sector.

"The reduced yields this year will result in significant reductions in income for embattled tillage farmers, and brings into sharp focus the necessity for a strong grain price," Mr Dunne said.

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"The target price for green barley will have to be a minimum of €145/t," he maintained.

The IFA representative urged growers to hold grain and battle for the best possible price given that local grain will be in shorter supply this autumn.

Grain merchants' representatives have been actively seeking barley supplies over the last week, farmers report.

However, the local shortfall in grain supplies is likely to be temporary, with industry commentators reporting that up to 5,000t of grain has been imported by merchants over the last fortnight.

In terms of the variable performance of winter barley, Carlow-based agricultural consultant Pat Minnock said Take All - a fungal infection - appeared to have been a factor following particular crop rotations.

"I note from rotations with some of my own growers that where third to fifth barleys were sown after break crops like beet, in particular, yields have been particularly badly affected," he said.


"Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) also had a major impact on yields."

Meanwhile, the bulk of the winter barley harvest has been completed in the main tillage regions of the south and east.

However, a significant portion of the crop has still to be cut in the midlands and more peripheral tillage areas. Poor weather has halted cutting this week and 30pc of the winter barley crop has yet to be cut in the midlands and north Meath.

Elsewhere, about half the crop remains to be cut in Donegal, Galway and Roscommon.

In other harvest news, some oilseed rape crops have already been cut, with yields described as "respectable". Most crops are yielding between 2t and 2.2t/ac, and have been harvested at moistures of 8-10pc.

The spring barley harvest is expected to kick off in the southeast later this week, but winter wheat is up to 10 days off starting.

In west Cork and Donegal wheat crops are reported to be very green and at least a month away from cutting.

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