Harvest issues pile pressure on tillage farmers
SECONDARY growth in spring barley, an increased disease threat and poor weather have combined to pile pressure on embattled tillage farmers.
Heavy rain brought combines to a halt across much of the country over the holiday weekend as growers struggled to get the last of the winter barley harvested.
With the first of the spring barley coming ready to cut this week, there are mounting concerns that secondary growth in crops is going to make for very difficult harvesting conditions.
Although excellent spring barley crops are reported in Cork, Waterford and south Tipperary, secondary growth is a major concern in Leinster.
Michael Hennessy of Teagasc said difficulties were more prevalent from Carlow north, but the incidence varied from field to field. He said crops that were badly impacted by the drought in April and May have been the worst affected by secondary growth.
Malting barley growers will be particularly hard hit by the harvest difficulties. Crops that make it past the stringent quality specifications could still struggle to make the low protein cutoffs for malting.
Malting barley suitable for distilling has a maximum protein limit of 9.3pc, while the limit for brewing is 10.8pc. Growers say few crops will reach these thresholds, as levels in winter barley harvested recently were as high as 13pc and 14pc.
To add to growers’ woes, there have been reports of an increased incidence of fusarium in crops, as well as some sprouting.
In addition, Boortmalt has still not specified what percentage of contracted malting barley it will take this year. Growers have expressed concerns that Boortmalt could cut intakes of malting barley from contracted growers by as much as 40pc.
On a more positive note, the early indications are that winter oilseed rape crops are yielding between 1.8t/ac and 2t/ac.
Yields from winter oats have been more mixed. Generally crops are yielding 3.25-3.5t/ac, but some areas have recorded as low as 2.5t/ac.
Maize crops are also said to be looking very good, with some eight foot tall already.
Meanwhile, farmers report more enquiries for straw this week. Prices range from €16 to €20 for 4x4 bales out of the field.