Farm Ireland

Monday 22 April 2019

Small carrots on menu as all field crops suffering

Vegetable farmer John Twomey Picture: Michael MacSweeney/Provision
Vegetable farmer John Twomey Picture: Michael MacSweeney/Provision
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Consumers could be left with unusually small carrots later this year as drought conditions affect growth.

The current lack of rain is having a severe effect on the field vegetable sector.

There are fears other crops, such as potatoes, broccoli and onions, could also be affected, because the planting season was delayed by a wet spring, which then turned into a sweltering, dry summer.

Stephen Alexander, a Teagasc vegetable advisor, said there had been virtually no rain some of the primary production areas, since the beginning of June.

“The current soil moisture deficit (SMD) ranges from 70mm in the west of the country to 95mm in the east which in effect means it will take weeks of rainfall to restore soil to normal moisture levels.

“And to make matters worse the dry weather comes in on top of one of the worst springs on record; March was cold and wet whilst April delivered above average rainfall in all areas.”

Where irrigation is available, it costs in the region of €100/acre for every 25mm application of water.

The warm and dry weather has increased pest and disease pressure in crops and reduced the efficacy of available crop protection measures.

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Meanwhile, harvesting a crop like broccoli and cauliflower which normally can be harvested in 2-3 passes is now taking up to 5 due to dry weather effects on broccoli maturity and size. 

Regarding carrots, Teagasc says May sown maincrops show quite a variation in terms of quality– some are good but gappy crops are reported in 25-50pc of the carrot farms.

This will lead to future problems with size, quality and yield, it said.

'We need rain now'

Vegetable farmer John Towmey from Adamstown, Ballinhassig in Cork warns that the larger carrot will be scarce this year.

He said his early crop of carrots have been severely impacted but said there was a chance that if the main crop got rain, it might be ok.

“But things don’t look good,” he said.

Mr Twomey warned that prices would be shoved up for consumers as the 'yields just won’t be there'.

“It might see shops having to abandon below-cost selling,” he said.

Towmey said his spuds are ‘worse off’. “Their root system doesn’t go down as deep as carrots, and they need a massive amount of water.

“I am doing a small bit of irrigation. But I have to draw the water a fair distance and diesel alone is costing me a fortune.

“The crops are responding. But it costs so much to get any response its hard to know if it’s worth it.

“My crops are borderline now. The crop is definitely at a critical point. We need rain soon.

“If it doesn’t get rain. Things will be serious,” he warned.

Irish Independent

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