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Monday 11 December 2017

Lack of spring rain has put crops at risk

Majella O'Sullivan

WHILE most people are enjoying the early arrival of summer, the freakishly mild spring has had a profound effect on plants.

Usually known for its showers and changeable weather, this April will go down as one of the driest since records began.

Absent from the month was a phenomenon of nature many believe to be vital for hardy and healthy plants and crops.

Dingle man Michael O'Connor (79), who has a keen interest in folklore and history, said this was the first spring in his lifetime that there hadn't been a 'scairbhin'.

The 'scairbhin', coming from the Irish 'garbh mi na gcuach' (the rough month of the cuckoo), has not made an appearance so far this spring.

He explained that the scairbhin (pronounced scaraveen) was the period between April 15 and May 15 when weather patterns were changeable and extremes were the norm.

"Within that period, nature has its own way of seeing after plant life," Mr O'Connor said.

"You'd have a warm spell to grow the plant, a cold spell with hail storms to harden it, and a gale of wind to distribute the pollen."

Hardy

He said the period was known as a hungry time of year for farmers, but it ensured the plants that grew were strong and hardy.

"All the old people had to watch these signs to survive. There was no Met Eireann to tell you what was around the corner," he said.

A crop specialist from the State's farming authority Teagasc said that while he would not dispute ancient lore, one thing that was certain was the short supply of spring rain.

"Farmers definitely want some rain at the moment, especially in the north-east of the country where it has been particularly dry," said Michael Hennessey of Teagasc crops research centre in Carlow.

With temperatures soaring to 19C and 20C in parts of the country, ground temperatures have also increased, so even if there is frost in May, it's unlikely to have much of an effect on plants.

Irish Independent

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