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Spring cereals planting up 50pc after wet winter

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The Smith Agri team getting 50 acres ready for sowing  seed oats at Donore, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow last week. Photo: Roger Jones

The Smith Agri team getting 50 acres ready for sowing seed oats at Donore, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow last week. Photo: Roger Jones

The Smith Agri team getting 50 acres ready for sowing seed oats at Donore, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow last week. Photo: Roger Jones

Over 155,000ha of spring barley and spring wheat is being planted for this year's harvest, a 50pc increase on the area sown last year.

The vast majority of the crop has been planted at this stage, with farmers and tillage advisors reporting spectacular progress in the fields over the last fortnight as soils finally dried out.

The IFA estimates that total sowings of winter crops has halved for this year's harvest, dropping from 155,000ha to just 80,000ha.

The area of winter barley is back from 80,000ha to 45,000ha, with the area of winter wheat falling from 58,000ha to 30,000ha, while winter oats dropped from 16,000ha to 6,000ha.

The shortfall in winter sowings has now been filled by a massive switch-over to spring barley and spring wheat.

Spring wheat sowings have jumped from 3,600ha in 2019 to over 12,000ha this year. Meanwhile, sowings of spring barley are likely to increase from 95,000ha to more than 140,000ha.

The area sown to beans is also up, increasing from 7,500ha to 10,000ha.

The total area of cereals sown is expected to hold at close to 260,000ha.

Atrocious

Michael Hennessy, head of crops knowledge transfer at Teagasc, said the ongoing difficulties in the beef sector, and the uncertainty in dairying, meant that remaining in tillage was the best option for the vast majority of cereal growers - despite a poor harvest last year and atrocious sowing conditions for winter crops.

Mr Hennessy also rejected suggestions that barley prices this autumn could take a hit because of the increased area sown to the crop.

He pointed out that Irish grain prices are primarily influenced by international market trends, and that significantly higher areas of barley were grown by Irish farmers in the past.

Meanwhile, IFA grain chairman Mark Browne has welcomed the decision by the Department of Agriculture to allow farmers to apply for a derogation on the three-crop rule.

He said the extension would alleviate some of the pressure on farms during this difficult time.

With many parts of the country having experienced the wettest February on record, the IFA had requested that the Department of Agriculture extend the process to allow all farmers seek a derogation on the three-crop rule.

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