The potential is there to worsen the Blackgrass problem in Ireland if straw is imported from the UK, according to Teagasc Tillage Specialist, Shay Phelan.

At the moment, Teagasc is aware of a few pockets of the cereal grass disease across the country, but in very small portions, Phelan said.

The UK is having a much tougher time with the disease, which can dramatically reduce yields.

There is certainly the potential for the disease to spread if straw is imported from the UK.

“However, you have to remember the disease could also spread from the importation of machinery such as balers and combines,” he said.

But it would be very difficult to measure just how much of a danger the importation of straw would be to bringing the disease into the country, he added.

The Irish tillage sector must not disregard the problem of Blackgrass, because if it becomes widespread in Ireland it will cost a lot of money to eradicate, Phelan said.

Research in the UK has shown that Black Grass has become resistant to most the commonly used post-emergence sprays.

According to the Teagasc Tillage Specialist, farmers should take immediate action if they notice Blackgrass on their farms.

One method of dealing with the disease is deep ploughing the soil to bury the seed, this dramatically reduces the chance of germination, he said.

Possibility of Importing Straw from the UK

The importation of straw from the UK should be avoided at all costs because of the Blackgrass problem, a spokesperson from the Irish Grain Growers Association said.

We don’t envisage a fodder crisis this year. There is no point talking about an emergency when there isn’t one.

“There is no shortage of straw in Ireland at the moment. In parts of the country there are still animals out.

“If the weather stays the way it is there should be plenty of straw in Ireland to deal with demand,” he said.

However if a shortage was to occur, farmers could look at alternative options to straw such as peat, bark or mulch, he said.

Regarding the strong straw market at the moment, the grain growers association believes prices are fair given the tough year for the tillage sector.