Ireland’s tillage farmers have experienced bumper yields in 2015, but despite this harvest some will still struggle financially as a result of poor grain prices, according to Teagasc’s John Pettit.

According to the Crop Agronomist, farmers need to look at all cropping options available to them and assess each crop’s ability to return a positive net margin in 2016.

A recent Teagasc Tillage Seminar in Wexford revealed that spring barley growers will struggle to break-even in 2015, and this is only amplified for those growing the crop under conacre agreements, said Pettit.

At present, growers can expect to receive in the region of €130/t for feed spring barley, with Pettit estimating that it costs in the region of €126/t to produce this crop on owned land, which increases to €176/t if conacre costs are added.

According to Pettit, farmers must examine alternative cropping options which could make their farming system more profitable.

“Winter wheat and oilseed rape have been more profitable in 2015, in some cases the alternative must be examined,” said Pettit.

However, Pettit added that it may not be a straight forward crop substitution as there are some factors which warrant consideration.

“While looking at such options consideration should also be given to farm soil type, the grower’s agronomic experience and the risks associated with individual crops,” said the Teagasc Crop Agronomist.

Harvest 2015 yields

According to Pettit, winter barley crops grown in Wexford only did marginally better than 2015, these crops yielded 3-5t/acre, with the average crop yielding between 3.8-3.9t/ac.

The Teagasc specialist added that spring barley was the big surprise in this year’s harvest, some crops yielded as little as 2t/ac up to a tops of 4t/ac, with the average floating around 3t/ac.

Spring barley crops grown in heavy sites looked less than average during the growing season, but once the combine passed through there was a big surprise given how poor these crops looked during the year.

However oilseed rape growers were the real winners in 2015, especially if these farmers took the first price offered, he said.

“Oilseed rape yields have improved dramatically on previous years with crops ranging from 1.6-2.3t/acre, with the average a little closer to 1.9-2t/acre.

“Oilseed rape prices at harvest where quite good, but they have slipped since, for the farmers who took the early price oilseed rape would have been a very profitable crop in 2015.”

According to the Teagasc Crop Agronomist, winter wheat yields had also improved in the south-east, these crops yielded 4t/ac in problem crops with the better quality crops reaching yields of 5.7t/ac.

He added that the yields of winter oats ranged from 3.2-4.5t/ac with averages of 3.9-4t/ac, but the problem with winter oats at this year’s harvest was quality.

“The bushel and grain quality were quite poor, this had a negative impact on demand and price was pushed downwards,” he said.