Opinion

Crop yields up in 2017: Isn’t life full of surprises?

I find it staggering that all of the main crop yields, including potatoes, increased last year.

Despite all of the unceasing rain, it turned out that most cereal growers got on with their business in fine fettle, enjoying a reasonable harvest plus a more-than-decent return for the straw they managed to bale.

I am also fast coming to the conclusion that we can be so selective in the way that we gather and assimilate news.

For example, AgriLand has been telling the world for the past few days that the decade up to 2015 was the wettest ever recorded, going back some 300 years.

Yet the same period of time also saw many of our farming sectors enjoy some of their most financially rewarding times in well over 50 years.

But let’s get back to 2017 for a second or two. While cereal growers in the drier parts of the country were getting on with their work, unhindered, the same could not be said for grassland farmers in the north and west.

Many of these people had to take stock in early and, such was the ferocity of the rain, they could not get sufficient silage made to get them through the following winter months.

So we now seem to be faced with a two-tier farming industry in Ireland. Sitting in the quality seats are those farmers with access to good land, who can get on with their way of life, for the most part, without the level of fodder worries, for example, seen further north.

Those in the lower ranks, however, are not so lucky. A combination of poorly-drained land and a wetter climate predispose them to the full ravages of the elements.

That said, I don’t think there is that big a difference in the actual levels of rainfall impacting on places like Wexford and, let’s say, north Mayo.

But there is a vast chasm of a difference in terms of the land quality available in the two regions.

Given this reality, the Government should seek to provide bespoke drainage and fencing grants, so as to allow for the improvement in soil structure, where this issue is already recognised as a key constraint to farming practices.

The alternative is to sit back, do nothing and condemn more than half the country to a future where production agriculture will continue to be a subsistence industry – at best.

At the end of the day, the land is the only true natural resource available to us in Ireland. Surely, we must strive to maximise its potential for production.