Harvest 2017 – the facts and the figures

Cereal production, in Ireland, for 2017 was up on last year at 2.3 million tonnes, as spring barley reached record yields.

Total cereal area, however, is down by 14,000ha (5.2%) to 263,000ha – from 277,000ha in 2016. This is according to the latest figures released by Teagasc.

While production is up from 2016 (2.18 million tonnes), it is down on the five-year average of 2.41 million tonnes. The report explained that the reduced land area and the poor harvest conditions contributed to the yield being lower than the five-year average.

The changes in cereal area (‘000ha) are shown in the table below.

Source: Teagasc

Winter barley saw a big drop in production, decreasing by almost 60,000t. Spring wheat production, although already small, decreased by 7,500t (13%). The acreage of these crops sown continued to the decrease.

Production overall was up 27,000t, mainly due to improved yields of winter wheat and spring barley.

Oats production was also up; many farmers sowed oats as their third crop.

Total cereal production (‘000t) is detailed in the table below.

Source: Teagasc

Record spring barley crop

According to Teagasc, spring barley yields were a record high at 7.8t/ha. Yield (t/ha) for wheat, barley and oats – both spring and winter – were all higher than 2016 levels.

While average spring barley yields were up 0.6t/ha, and hit record highs, there was variation in yield and Teagasc reported a range of 3.5-9.5t/ha.

Winter barley yield was up 0.5t/ha on 2016; this is equal to the five-year average yield.

Winter oats yielded 8.9t/ha – an increase from the five-year average of 8.2t/ha. However, yields varied hugely and Teagasc reported winter oat yields between 6.25t/ha and 10.3t/ha.

The average yields (t/ha) for all crops are detailed in the table below.

Source: Teagasc

Oilseed rape and spring beans’ moistures suffered in spring-sown crops.

Average yields and moisture content for minority crops:
  • Winter oilseed rape: 4.5t/ha (10.2%);
  • Spring oilseed rape: 2.9t/ha (13%);
  • Spring beans: 6.7t/ha (21.4%).

Cereal quality

Winter barley moisture content averaged 17.3%. However, poor harvest conditions resulted in high moisture contents for remaining crops; the figures averaged between 18.5% and 20.5%.

Hectolitre weight wasn’t anything to write home about, but easily passed the minimum quality parameters.

Average hectolitre weight (kg/hl) on winter wheat was 74.2 kg/hl; spring wheat was 70.3 kg/hl; winter barley was 64.4 kg/hl; spring barley was 62.4 kg/hl; and winter and spring oats were 53.6 kg/hl and 52.4 kg/hl respectively.

Straw still on the ground

Teagasc estimates that 10% of straw remains on the ground and is not baled. Losses were reported due to delayed harvest, poor weather and excessive turning of straw.

Winter planting

Teagasc estimates large decreases in the area of land planted to winter crops. It estimates that 123,000ha of winter cereals have been sown – a drop of 14.5%.

Delayed harvest, straw lying on fields and poor sowing conditions have contributed to the decline in sowings and, maybe in some cases, a poor price outlook for 2018.

Image source: Shane Casey

Winter wheat area is estimated to be down by 7% to 55,000ha. Winter barley is estimated at 57,000ha – a decrease of 11%. Winter oats has seen a 27% drop to 11,000ha.

Winter oilseed rape planting is estimated to have stayed the same. However, winter beans planting dropped significantly.

Teagasc estimates that just 100ha of winter beans have been sown, down from 900ha during the winter of 2016.