Harvest yields 'inconsistent' as wet weather takes its toll

Margaret Donnelly and Declan O'Brien

Close to 90pc of spring cereal crops remain to be cut in Donegal as continuous heavy rains have brought the harvest in the county to a standstill.

The wet weather has restricted harvesting to a handful of days over the last three weeks, and ground conditions have deteriorated badly.

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"The combines haven't moved in close to two weeks. It's shocking bad. Two or three dry days is all we've had in the last three weeks," said Peter Lynch, the IFA grain chairman in Donegal. "Ground conditions are now the big worry."

Mr Lynch said fields that were usually very dry were now holding a lot of surface water. Heavier land is not trafficable.

"We'll need three of four good dry days before we can go anywhere near crops. It's not going to be simple if the weather doesn't improve," he said.

The one positive for growers is that crops are generally standing up very well, apart from some early signs of sprouting.

Teagasc's Martin McCullough said the situation in the county was "not desperate yet" but he conceded that the weather will need to pick up.

He pointed out that over 50mm of rain fell in east Donegal in just two days the weekend before last, and that it had rained nearly every day since.

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With close to 4,500ac of spring barley left to be cut, along with small acreages of wheat and oats, IFA members from other parts of the country have offered to bring in combines to help local growers.

"We've had plenty of offers from other growers on the [IFA] grain committee to send us up combines, and that's great, but it's weather we need, not combines," Mr Lynch said.

Meanwhile, in the north-east harvest yields are described by one grain merchant as "very variable". He said yields have not matched those reported in other areas, and many farmers have seen crops hit by Yellow Dwarf virus this year.

"Wheat yields are middling and even poor in places. August was a bad month for weather and moisture levels are in the region of 19pc. Last year moisture levels were more in the region of 16pc," he said - adding that this is impacting prices.

"The level of quality was much more consistent last year. This year crops we're seeing coming in are very inconsistent."

Most of the harvest, he said, was saved in the region over the weekend with just around 5pc of crops to come in. Beans, he said, are a week away from harvesting.

However, he said the mood among tillage farmers is not good this year.

"There is a lot of negativity among farmers. Prices have not settled yet and it's harder than ever for farmers to grow quality grain."

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