Tillage farmers 'an endangered species'
Tillage farmers could soon be an endangered species as the area of land in cereals has dropped by 55,000ha, or 17pc, in eight years.
Teagasc has warned it is expected to drop further this year, as cereal growers face stiff competition for rented land from the expanding dairy sector.
Carlow-based agri advisor Pat Minnock warned that there must be a "decent margin" this year or the acreage will drop further.
He warned more tillage ground this year was already "going back into grass" as he met with his clients.
He said dairy farmers were out-pricing tillage farmers for leased land, with prices up to around €300 a hectare.
"The knock-on effect is if there is less cereals, then the absence of straw is going to be a major issue.
"The markets will dictate. The tillage man is going to disappear as he is getting no support," said Mr Minnock.
A recent Teagasc crops report showed favourable conditions last autumn resulted in an increase in the winter crop area, with wheat at 62,000ha, barley at 75,000ha and oats at 12,000ha.
However, the spring barley area is estimated to be the lowest-ever recorded at 100,000ha.
Cork-based Teagasc advisor Ciaran Collins said there has been a noted depreciation of the area in the last few years, with pressure on all areas from dairying.
He said 2018 had seen "unprecedented" values for straw. "From a tillage perspective, we'd hope it is a new era as straw was an undervalued product," he said.
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