Every tillage farmer in the country has – quite rightly – been complaining about the poor harvest weather up to this point.

But for seed companies and agronomists involved in varietal trials work, challenging weather at harvest time brings with it a ‘silver lining’ of sorts.

Goldcrop’s John Dunne told Agriland: “We all accept that securing a decent weather window at harvest time is never a given in this country.

“So knowing which new varieties can perform well when the rain falls and the wind blows is, actually, a positive from a varietal trials perspective.

“Knowing how a new variety will perform during ideal harvest weather conditions is useful, up to a point. However, wheat crops, for example are prone to shedding grains during blustery conditions as they approach full maturity.”

Dunne explained that the storm-like conditions that affected Ireland the week before last provided a perfect opportunity to gauge how the new generation of wheat varieties will cope with these sorts of weather conditions.

Variety trials and outlook

Meanwhile, the rate of genetic progress being achieved by plant breeders continues apace.

“This is a very real and positive news story for Irish tillage farmers,” Dunne added.

“A case in point is the decision that has been taken by many European plant breeding operations to put improved resistance against septoria tritici as a key priority, where their wheat development programmes are concerned.

“This is the most important disease threat that confronts Irish wheat growers on an annual basis.”

Looking ahead to the 2023/2024 growing season, Dunne expects to see a significant, year-on–year increase in the area of winter crops planted out.

“Poor weather played havoc with growers’ plans to plant out winter crops last autumn,” Dunne added.

“But if they get the opportunity at all, they will be keen to commit to crops of barley, oats and wheat over the coming weeks.”

Last year saw 20,000ha of winter oilseed rape grown in Ireland. John Dunne is hopeful that this level of commitment to the crop can be repeated again.

“But the first challenge will be that of getting straw baled in fields that have been earmarked for rape,” he said.

“At a commercial level, demand for rape seed is already strong. We have seen tremendous strides made in terms of new oilseed rape varieties can deliver for Irish growers.

“And this process is set to continue.”