'Oats are a tough crop and more adaptable to weather extremes'
All farmers are suffering with the ravages of the drought but Donald Tracey is confident that his organic oats will not be too badly hit - and even if his yield does end up significantly down, he is looking on the bright side.
"This year will be a big test because the crop was sown in April and has only had one or two showers of rain since then," says Donald, who farms 46 hectares of certified organic land with his wife Aideen in Battlemount just outside Crookstown in Co Kildare.
They operate a mixed farm, buying in calves from a neighbouring organic farmer to finish. They grow 26ac of oats, which is rotated with the grass/clover area every two years to maintain fertility and keep weed pressure under control.
"It is not like a normal year so it will be hard going for everyone. The oats look well though - oats are a tough crop they naturally grow wild so are more adaptable to weather extremes than other crops.
"I average yields of 2t/ac so we will see what happens. The grain has been slower to fill out but I expect to have some rain before we harvest in approximately four weeks' time.
"One benefit of a dry summer is that the crop is very clean with no weeds in it - you have to look for the silver lining in everything!
"I grow Husky oats and they are a profitable crop, I sell to Flahavans and they are very good to deal with, but I expect supply will be tight this year due to possibly lower yields and rising animal feed demands."
Donald and Aideen used to grow 200ac of conventional barley before they changed to organic farming seven years ago.
The prolonged drought will affect supplies of animal feed later in the year and it is something that farmers need to plan ahead for.
"There is no doubt that feed will be expensive, so I will have to consider reducing stock as it is an animal welfare issue, but for now we will keep going and see what happens," said Donald.
"We are hosting a Field Talk event for the Irish Organic Association on August 21 so farmers can come along and find out more about organic tillage and see how the oats eventually turned out."
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