Ireland’s oilseed rape acreage may well rise to 10,000ha for the 2016/17 season, according to Teagasc tillage specialist Shay Phelan.

“That’s significantly up on the 9,000ha planted out last year,” he said.

“Drivers for this include the fact that buyers are offering a price for rape of €360/t at harvest next year.

“Assuming a yield of 1½t/ac and grain prices remaining roughly where they are now, that should guarantee a level of performance equivalent to what growers would expect from winter barley crops yielding 4t/ac.”

Phelan said the three crop greening rule is another driver encouraging growers to increase the acreage of rape grown for 2016/17.

“But it is a crop that is not without problems when it comes to growing it successfully. For one thing, rape is very prone to pigeon damage,” he said.

Harvest 2016

Reflecting on the 2016 harvest, Phelan confirmed that 95% of all cereal crops had now been combined in the south east.

“The equivalent figure for Donegal is in the region of 75%,” he added.

“Winter wheat crops are averaging 4t/ac with winter and bring barleys coming in at 3½t and 3t/ac respectively.

“Historically, these are average levels of performance for the Irish tillage sector. But the output figures for 2016 are well down on the figures recorded last year. And the combined impact of lower yields and reduced prices is serving to put significant pressure on tillage margins.”

Looking ahead, Phelan said that cereal growers are gearing up for the winter barley planting season.

“It looks like two-row varieties, such as Tower, Casio and Infinity, will account for 60% of all the barley seed sold over the coming weeks.

“Hybrids still have a role to play. Information coming through at the moment would indicate that hybrid yields have been maintained this year but actual grain quality may not be as good as that secured from two-row varieties.

“But it’s too early to say what has caused this differential.”