Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Yields from harvest hit best levels in 20 years

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

This year's harvest broke 20-year records for yields, Teagasc has announced.

Irish tillage farmers recorded the highest national yields in more than two decades for barley, wheat and oats, according to the latest estimates.

Figures for the year show that average crop yields increased by as much as 1.3t/ha between last year and this, resulting in a bumper harvest.

Winter barley, spring barley and winter wheat were by far the best performers in the national harvest of 2.4 million tonnes of grain.

Winter wheat yields also increased by 1.3t/ha, going from 8.9t/ha to 10.2t/ha this year.

The average yield for winter barley increased by 0.5t/ha, going from 8.5t/ha last year to 9t/ha this year, while spring barley yields rose from 6.7t/ha to 7.5t/ha in the past 12 months.

Spring oats also exceeded expectations, with average yields of 7.9t/ha this year, compared to 7.2t/ha last year.

Total harvest grain production reached more than 2.4m tonnes, an increase of 362,000t over last year's harvest.

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This increase was driven, in part, by an increase in the area of land sown under cereals, which rose by 12,200ha, rising from 272,300ha last year to 284,500ha this year.

Teagasc tillage specialist Michael Hennessy said excellent establishment of winter crops, followed by a dry winter and cold summer had combined to create ideal conditions for cereal crops.

However the excellent yields recorded by the majority of tillage farmers are of little comfort to growers in Donegal, where deluges of rain have turned the harvest into little more than a salvage operation.

Up to 500ha of cereals remain unharvested in the county, where crop conditions are described as "shocking" by tillage advisers. Large areas of crops have lodged, while sprouting of grain and re-growth on the stalks have also been reported.

Meanwhile, the harvest is expected to trigger an increase in the acreage of land sown to winter crops. Last year, tillage growers set 34,400ha of winter barley, 74,700ha of winter wheat and 8,700ha of winter oats.

Mr Hennessy said a good drilling window and high seed sales would suggest that a similar or slightly higher area would be drilled this autumn.

He added that it was evident that farmers were switching from spring barley to winter barley due to the yield increases recorded this harvest.

"Winter barley acreage could be up 20-30pc this year," he said. "It is more difficult to estimate the winter wheat acreage because home-saved seed is a factor."

He added that the acreage of winter oilseed rape was expected to increase significantly, with sowing estimated to have increased by 30-50pc from this year's total of 8,000ha.

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