Vegetable growers in parts of north Dublin have been forced to irrigate fields as a result of the very dry conditions over the last month.
Although the country had record rainfall levels up to the end of March, the dry spell since then has left much of the east and northeast with a soil moisture deficit of 30-50mm.
Land in some areas has become so dry and hard that farmers have been forced to irrigate ground so that vegetable seeds, such as parsnips and carrots, can penetrate the ground or strike.
Alan Dunne of WBD Farm Machinery in Ballyboughal in north Dublin said it is very unusual to see irrigation equipment in fields this early in the year but vegetable growers have had no option due to the dry conditions.
“Conditions here went from very wet to extremely dry in four weeks,” Mr Dunne explained.
“We’ve had no rain for the last four weeks, apart from a few millimetres. It is so dry in parts of Louth that potato growers are struggling to make rows,” he maintained.
The worst affected areas are along the east coast north of Dublin, where the soil moisture deficit exceeds 40mm.
Across much of the midlands and west the deficit exceeds 30mm, with a deficit of 20-30mm in north Munster.
Showers along the south coast last week meant that south Munster has generally been unaffected.
The dry weather has yet to seriously impact grass growth or tillage crops, although grass supplies are reported to be tightening on heavily-stocked farms in the southeast.
John Douglas of Teagasc’s Grass 10 programme, who is based in Grange, said there were good grass covers on the vast majority of farms, despite growth rates having slowed over the last week.
Teagasc’s Pasturebase service is reporting average growth rates of 52-55kg/ha/day across the country. However, some farmers are reporting growth rates in excess of 70kg/ha/day.
Mr Douglas also pointed out that the dry matter content of grass is currently around 20pc, where it is normally 16-17pc, and that grazing conditions and grass utilisation are both excellent.
Teagasc crops specialist, Michael Hennessy, said cereals were generally doing well at the moment, but he admitted that the rainfall forecast for this week will be needed.
Some rain is expected across much of the country from tomorrow.