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An estimated 1.6 million fewer straw bales available on Irish farms this year

Teagasc estimates the output from the cereal sector in Ireland is expected to reduce by at least €100 million this year.

This comes following the effects of the prolonged drought which has severely affected crops in the eastern half of the country.  

Total output of grain this year is expected to drop from the normal 2.3 million tonnes to under 1.9 million tonnes. 

Straw yields are also predicted to reduce by close to 25% of normal quantities with an estimated 1.6 million fewer bales available in the country this year, according to the state agency.

Grass growth severely impacted

The drought is also affecting livestock farmers with grass growth severely affected in these areas. 

Many of these farmers already feeding some of their winter forage stocks to supplement grazed grass and concentrates. 

It is likely there will be a higher demand for forages this autumn with knock-on effects for the prices for feedstocks such as straw, Teagasc outlined.

Records were broken at many Met Eireann stations in the east of the country. This spring was the driest since records began in 1837 at the Phoenix Park. 

There was less than 10 mm of rain, just 15% of normal, recorded for May at Dublin airport.  This was on top of only 23% of normal rain for April. 

Rain ‘small impact’ on eventual harvest outcome

Michael Hennessy, Head of Teagasc Crops Knowledge Transfer said drought hit at least one month earlier than in 2018 and in doing so, affected crop growth much earlier in the plant’s growth cycle, thereby, reducing yield much earlier in the season.

The rain over the last number of days will only have a small impact on the eventual outcome of the harvest this year, Teagasc added.

Mr Hennessy said: “The rain is welcome for these badly affected crops as it’s still needed to realise these low yields.”

Crops further south are less affected by drought but the recent rains are needed in these areas also.   

Farmers with crops such as beans and potatoes and other later harvested crops will certainly welcome this rain as it will help to maintain or increase the yield potential in these crops.   

Irrigate smaller number of fields

Shay Phelan, Teagasc potato specialist said: “Potatoes got off to a great start this year, however, early frost damage was quickly compounded by very dry conditions forcing farmers to irrigate crops much earlier than normal.”

Irrigation is a huge cost to farmers with each pass estimated to cost €250 per hectare and has a huge cost in terms of man-hours to carry out the operation, Teagasc added.

“Most fields will need six to seven irrigation passes this year, not only to maintain quality, but also to maintain acceptable yields,” added Shay. 

Most farmers do not have sufficient irrigation capacity to cover all of their potato crops and, Teagasc added, are encouraged to concentrate their efforts to adequately irrigate a smaller number of fields rather than cover the entire area with an insufficient amount of water.  

Conor O Callaghan, Teagasc advisor in Dublin, said: “The loss of income to tillage farmers will be severe in many cases.”

“These farmers have substantial financial commitments including employee wages, loan repayments and overhead costs. We can’t forget this is their family income for the year.” the advisor concluded.  

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