Approximately 50% of this year’s winter wheat area has yet to be harvested, according to Teagasc crops specialist Tim O’Donovan.

“It’s a much more variable story where spring barley is concerned,” he said.

“In many places, up to 50% of the barley acreage has been cut. But in parts of Wexford we are hearing that the figure is as low as 25% up to now but with dry weather, every combine will be moving in these areas over the weekend. Spring wheat crops have not been touched at all, up to this point.”

O’Donovan said that the prospect of improved weather coming in over the next few days will be the catalyst that pushes growers in the direction of the finishing line, where this year’s harvest is concerned.

“It’s been very much a smash and grab affair for growers over the past couple of weeks,” he said.

“But the changeable weather of the last fortnight has served to increase moisture levels and reduce bushel weights. It has also impacted on yields.

“Some weeks ago, I would have confidently predicted that some fields would achieve record wheat yields of up to 6t/ac. But in most of these cases actual yields will probably come in at around 5-5.5t.

“The delayed harvest and poor weather has resulted in some crops shedding grain.”

O’Donovan characterised the current cereal harvest in Ireland as a repeat of 2011.

“That was the year when the current Irish yield records were set. Depending on weather conditions over the coming days, we may just exceed this figure, whereas two weeks ago I felt sure that we would have set new yield records with plenty to spare.”

O’Donovan confirmed that wheat and barley moisture levels are currently in the region of 20%.

“We are getting reports that it is proving more difficult than normal to dry grain,” he said.

“This is because some crops may not be completely ripe when combined.

“As a consequence, the moisture removed is deep within the grain, which makes the drying process that little bit more protracted.”