Farming community are busy harvesting crops planted last year
ALTHOUGH the Irish summer is petering out towards a disappointing end, those in the farming community are in the middle of one of their busiest times as crops planted last year are finally ready for harvest.
Cereals are harvested from mid-July to mid-September with the majority completed in August. Weather conditions dictate the pace of harvest and grain is generally harvested too moist to store without further drying. Over 300,000 hectares of the best land in Ireland is engaged in tillage farming, or the annual production of crops for harvest. Cereal crops are the main output, led by barley, then wheat and then oats.
Between 2000 and 2010, Ireland recorded the highest average wheat and second highest average barley yields in the world. There are cereals grown in every county in Ireland, although the area in 2010 ranged from just 29 hectares in Sligo to 41,569 hectares in Wexford. This is mainly explained by differences in the suitability of the land and, to a lesser extent, more hours of sunshine in the south east.
The number of individual farmers growing cereal crops is highest in Cork, at 2,830, followed by Wexford at 2,395 and Tipperary at 1,240.
Apart from the cereal crops, Irish farmers grow maize, beans, peas, oilseed rape, beet and potatoes. Potato growing in particular has become very intensive, with just 12,200 hectares grown. There are 540 growers who plant more than five hectares each and around 200 specialised growers account for 75% of production.
Maize in Ireland is mainly grown as a forage crop that is harvested and ensiled for winter feeding to livestock. It requires warm south facing fields and tends to grow more successfuly in the south. While improved varieties cope better with our climate, maize yield and consequently its production cost per tonne are variable depending on seasonal weather variation.
In the Irish climate, the conserved forage market is the only economic outlet for maize currently. Maize is grown as a forage crop, cut with a forage harvester and ensiled in anaerobic conditions to promote a stable acidic fermentation.
While much of the maize crop is grown by livestock producers for consumption by their own stock, there is a market for maize produced by crop growers for subsequent sale to livestock producers. This allows livestock producers to import additional high quality feed onto their farms, effectively allowing expansion of their enterprise. As a forage, it is less expensive to harvest and transport than grass silage.