After a dry morning, the combines should start rolling again in Co Wexford this evening. Teagasc tillage advisor Ciaran Hickey has told Agriland that with the winter barley, winter oats and winter oilseed rape harvest now completed in that part of the world, the challenge now confronting farmers is to get the remainder of the winter wheat and spring barley crops harvested as quickly as possible.

“Growers have enjoyed a tremendous cereal harvest to date,” he said. “Winter barley crops have yielded up to four and a half tones per acre with some early wheats coming in at 5 tonne.  The one disappointment has been oilseed rape. Yields in the South East have been between 1.3 and 1.5 tonnes per acre. This compares with 1.8 to 2.0 tonnes further up the country in places like Tipperary. Part of the problem with rape this year in Wexford was an early Spring attack of light leaf spot, which went largely unnoticed. Pigeon damage was also severe in some crops.

“Forward rape prices for next August are currently in the range €290 to €320 per tonne. This is on a par with the returns that are currently available. There is a recognition that Ireland needs to produce as much of its own protein requirements as it can. But given that there will be a subsidy on beans next year I sense that significant numbers of tillage farmers might look at this option seriously for 2015.”

Commenting on this year’s winter wheat harvest, Ciaran confirmed that crops are currently coming off the combine at between 20% and 21% moisture.

“The big fear is that a delay in harvesting at this stage could lead to sprouting in the ears. So growers will be taking every opportunity they can to get out into the fields over the coming days. Spring barley crops are also fully ripe.”

He also said that cereal growers getting four tonnes per acre right now will probably break even this autumn. “But market conditions could change significantly and without notice. The reality is that yield will never compensate for price.”