The harvesting of winter barley has kicked into gear and farmers, particularly in the south, are expecting crops to ripen at least seven days earlier than last year.

Some tillage growers have already started harvesting winter barley and combines have been seen working in the counties of Wexford, Cork, Meath, Waterford and Kilkenny.

Wednesday marked the start of cutting in many locations. However, the majority of winter barley producers expect crops to ripen over the next two weeks.

Although the acreage harvested so far has been small, many farmers seem to be quite happy with the yields produced.

Indications from Co. Wexford suggest that winter barley crops are edging towards the 4t/ac mark. These crops were sown on light soils and higher yields may be obtained when harvesting kicks into top gear on heavier sites.

Merchants are also expecting winter barley deliveries to peak over the next two weeks – if weather conditions allow for harvesting.

Lodging and disease

Lodging does not appear to be a major problem in winter barley just yet, as rainfall has been below historical average volumes in recent weeks.

Many winter barley crops appear to be standing upright and straw breakdown does not seem to be a major concern. However, some farmers are seeing a noticeable amount of ramularia in winter barley this year.

The resulting leaf spot can significantly reduce yields through the loss of green leaf area within a growing crop.

Weather update

Farmers planning to start harvesting will need to keep an eye on the weather forecast.

Over the coming days, Met Eireann says, the weather will be mainly dry; but there is a chance of rain in some locations.

Today, Saturday, is expected to be a generally dry day with a mixture of cloud and sunny spells, Met Eireann forecasts. Temperatures are expected to reach highs of 16-19°.

Sunday looks to be mild and cloudy with scattered outbreaks of rain. Temperatures are set to be lowest in the northwest (14-15°). However, temperatures of 17-20° are forecast in other regions.

Harvesting looks set to be disrupted on Monday, as a good deal of cloud and some showery rain is forecast in the southwest.

However, it’s expected to improve again on Tuesday and sunny spells, reaching highs of 16-20°, are predicted.