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Tuesday 16 October 2018

Strong outlook for winter barley but straw volumes forecast to collapse

Tom Ryan & Rory Houlhan are pictured harvesting a crop of Ambrosia winter wheat at Ballymackee, Co Waterford for Tony O'Reilly, Grange, Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The crop yielded 3.8t per acre at 21pc moisture & bushelled 70kph.
Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Tom Ryan & Rory Houlhan are pictured harvesting a crop of Ambrosia winter wheat at Ballymackee, Co Waterford for Tony O'Reilly, Grange, Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The crop yielded 3.8t per acre at 21pc moisture & bushelled 70kph. Photo: O'Gorman Photography

Exceptional winter barley yields, serious concerns for late-sown spring crops, and a collapse in straw volumes, is the mixed forecast for this year's harvest.

As combines started rolling in east Munster this week, Michael Hennessy of Teagasc predicted very good yields for winter crops, but he cautioned that yields from some late-sown spring crops could be well back.

He also forecast a 20-25pc fall-off in straw volumes, with the expected output falling by around 1.5 million 4x4 bales.

Traditionally the harvest produces between 7m and 7.5m 4x4 bales of straw, but this year's total output is forecast to be in the 5.5m to 6m bales range.

Mr Hennessy said winter barley and winter wheat has "very good yield potential", with winter barley crops coming in at least 10 days early.

However, he cautioned that winter wheat sown on lighter ground had started to burn badly.

The dry hot weather is also taking a toll on winter oats, with more modest yield expectations for the crop.

"Winter oats never like this weather," said Mr Hennessy.

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Some farmers have predicted that yields from late-sown spring cereal crops could be back by between 20pc to 50pc. While Mr Hennessy said that it was very difficult to know where the yields for these crops will be, he accepted that they were under pressure - particularly in the east and south east.

Combines 'flat out'

Growers in South Tipperary started cutting winter barley this week on what were described as early fields, and the expectation is that combines will be flat out by Friday or Saturday.

Winter barley crops are generally looking very good, with early harvested crops yielding close to 4.0t/ac.

South Tipperary grower Kieran Ryan harvested a field sown to the winter barley variety Cassia last Friday. It yielded 3.8t/ac at 17pc moisture and bushelled at 58kph.

Mr Ryan, who is based in Clerihan, Clonmel and runs a contracting business with his father Jim, was happy with the yield and quality of the crop.

"If all the crop was like that I'll be happy," he said.

He said the first field cut had come in earlier than others because it is south facing and the soils are "closer to the stone".

Mr Ryan predicted that the harvest will be going in earnest by Thursday or Friday.

Growers in Cork also expect to have combines in fields by the weekend and early next week as winter barley crops are already coming ripe.

Kieran Ryan said winter barley crops were looking very good but he said winter wheat crops were looking "a little bit stressed".

He said rain was needed for both the spring barley and spring oats crops.

Meanwhile, grain prices on international markets have strengthened over the last week, with the indications that green harvest prices for barley and wheat are in the €170-175/t range.

IFA grain chairman Mark Browne said he was not surprised that prices had strengthened given that many grain-growing regions of Western Europe are predicting reduced yields because of drought. Mr Browne predicted that some growers in counties along the eastern seaboard will be lucky to salvage any grain or straw from spring barley crops.

"The situation looks extremely grave for these producers and they will need support from the trade and Government to survive this year," he said.

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