GrassCheck: Growth stalls as NI sees biggest extremes in 10 years

Grass growth in Northern Ireland has slumped as rainfall becomes an issue on many farms, the latest GrassCheck data shows.

This week’s forecast expects growth will drop to just above 60kg DM/ha/day. Rather worryingly, the 14-day forecast shows a massive slump could be just around the corner.

Predictions this week show a dramatic fall in grass growth based on weather forecasts and current dry soil conditions at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute’s Hillsborough plot.

It’s expected growth will then almost halve to 34.2kg DM/ha/day – just as many are preparing to start their second cut.

Image source: GrassCheck

Growth has fallen in the past week in line with predictions and due to the dry conditions experienced – particularly in the eastern counties.

These extremes haven’t been witnessed since June 2008, and it is likely that these predictions will be localised to areas which continue to receive little rainfall.

In Co. Down no rainfall at all was measured over the last week at the GrassCheck weather stations.

The same week, soil moisture also peaked at 146.9kPa in the east – more than double the amount at which growth is restricted.

Image source: GrassCheck

However, soil remained moist in the west where grass growth was also highest; Co. Tyrone managed the most growth this week, topping 90kg DM/ha/day.

However, a large range in growth rates is currently evident across GrassCheck farms (24 – 137kg DM/ha/day). Wetter farms or those which have received localised heavy rainfall recently are expected to maintain current growth rates.

Grass quality remains low across much of the province due to the stress on the plant from dry weather.

This week’s GrassCheck management notes advise:

  • Testing grass and reviewing current supplementation rates for livestock to meet animal requirements for target performance.

GrassCheck

Established in 1999, the GrassCheck project aims to provide up-to-date grass information to assist farmers with grassland management decisions.

Operated by AgriSearch and AFBI, the project monitors weekly grass growth, as well as quality. It also provides seven-day, and 14-day, grass growth rate forecasts.

In 2017, the project included 35 farmers across a variety of systems spread around Northern Ireland. This year the number of farms involved increased to 50.