Cereal production from ‘Harvest 2021’ is estimated to be slightly over 2.3 million tonnes, up from just over 1.9 million tonnes recorded last year.

This represents an increase of approximately 407,000t (21%) on ‘Harvest 2020’ and is in line with the rolling average of approximately 2.3 million tonnes, according to Teagasc Harvest Report 2021.

The cereal area increased by 3.1% in 2021, up to 274,000ha from 266,000ha in the previous year.

Winter cereal production

The area of winter cereals in increased by 42,000ha due to the favourable conditions in autumn 2020, but was still lower than the area planted in autumn 2018 for the 2019 harvest, according to the report.

The area of spring barley decreased by 18% in 2021 to 116,200ha, down from 141,000 ha 2020.  

The majority of the spring crops were planted in March and early April into good seed beds. Rainfall for these months was below average and soil conditions at sowing were good.

However temperatures in April and May were lower than normal, so this led to slower than normal crop development.

harvest 2021 cereal production

Disease levels

Disease levels were low in spring cereals. Septoria was the main challenge in winter wheat especially in the southern half of the country.

The northern half of the country was drier, where yellow rust was a significant problem on many farms who had drilled susceptible wheat varieties. Mildew and rust levels in oats were generally low this year.

Harvest 2021 for the most part was carried out in ideal conditions; many farmers harvested winter barley below 15% moisture, while most of the remaining cereals were harvested below 20%.

Yields across the board were above the five-year average, with many crops close to the record yields achieved previously, and in the case of the winter oat crop it averaged its highest ever recorded yield.

Straw was cleared from fields quickly which allowed establishment of catch crops and winter oilseed rape, with reported increases in the area planted of both. 

Above average yields and good harvest weather combined with strong grain and straw markets resulted in high financial output from cereals in 2021.  

Winter barley

The area of winter barley increased by 31% to 67,386ha due to favourable drilling conditions in the autumn of 2020. Rhynchosporium was evident early in the season, but overall disease levels were low. Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) was not an issue in 2021.

Average yields were 9.4t/ha up from 8.28t/ha in 2020, and were similar to the yields achieved in 2019.

Cold weather in April and late frosts limited spraying opportunities, and also had an effect on some crops where some below average yields were recorded.

Most crops were harvested at very low moistures, with some harvested as low as 12-13%. Grain quality was good at 66.0kg/hectolitre (hl) with average harvest grain moistures at 15.4% moisture content (MC).

Winter wheat

There was an increase of 20% in winter wheat plantings in autumn 2020 to 55,964ha compared to 35,400ha in autumn 2019.

Crops established well and there was very little flooding damage compared to the previous year. As a result, crops were generally in good condition coming into the spring with good yield potential.

Cooler temperatures during the spring meant that crops were relatively slow developing during April and May.

Septoria in the south and yellow rust in the midlands and north east were problematic for many growers in the spring, some growers struggled to control both, even where robust programmes were used.

Crops were harvested in good conditions, without the losses that some growers experienced from the storms during Harvest 2020.

Most crops had good yield potential and the recorded average yield of 10.8t/ha, the highest recorded yield since 2015. There was a relatively large variation in yield this year, with disease issues resulting in some of the lower yields.  

Grain moisture averaged 18.1% and average hl weight was 74.1kg/hl.

Harvest 2021 cereal production

Winter oats

Similar to winter wheat and barley, the area of winter oats drilled increased from 8,260ha in 2020 to 13,900ha in 2021 – an increase of 67%.

Disease levels were low this year, but cold weather did have an affect with stress and scorching evident on some crops after spray applications, however this did not seem to adversely affect yields.

The average yield of 9.32t/ha is the highest ever recorded. The five-year average for winter oats is 8.64t/ha. 

Average grain moisture was 17.2% and average specific weight was 54.6 kg/hl.

Winter oilseed rape

The winter oilseed rape (OSR) area increased by 16% to 10,102ha from 8,749ha in 2020 which is above the five-year average of 8,840ha.

The crop emerged from the winter in good condition with only limited pigeon grazing. Cold weather in March and April resulted in a prolonged flowering period, but doesn’t seem to have had an impact on yield.

Yield in winter OSR is remarkably consistent over the last five years, according to the Teagasc report. This year’s average yield is 4.5t/ha which is 0.1t/ha above the five-year average yield of 4.4t/ha.