‘Tillage farmers will have to deal with the burden of a bad harvest’

Tillage farmers who have cereal crops yet to be harvested, which are badly lodged and sprouting, may have to desiccate them with a diquat based product such as Reglone, according to Teagasc Tillage Adviser, John Pettit.

Pettit, who is based in south Co. Wexford, said that an expected opportunity this week should see the harvest in his area come to a close.

However, there are some parts of the country that have been worse affected by heavy rainfall, with fields becoming untrafficable.

Wexford is not as bad off as some parts of the country, but there is some straw that will never see a bale. In some cases, wheaten straw has been left on the ground for over a month.

“Farmers just haven’t had a period of good weather long enough to complete the harvest and save the straw.

“The straw left on the ground may have to be mulched and ploughed back into the ground,” he said.

The heavier soil in the south of Wexford means that crops have to be sown later than in the north of the county.

Therefore, the crops matured later in the year which coincided with the poor weather conditions, he said.

But in general the harvest of spring barley, wheat and beans should come to a close this week in Wexford, with harvesting opportunities predicted between Tuesday and Saturday, he said.

Meanwhile, the average tillage farmers’ income is set to fall by €14,000 in 2016 due to low prices and poor weather conditions affecting the harvest.

Tillage farmers who were renting land were already under serious pressure, he said, but now they will have to deal with the burden of a bad harvest.

Crops that were lodging and began sprouting lost their malting premium, that’s €30/t straight away.

“This was further compounded by a drop in yield due to poorer bushel weights and parts of fields that could not be harvested.

“Taking a late harvested crop of barley, yielding 2.5t/ac and a price of €125/t, that amounts to close to €310, plus €50/ac for straw, that’s a total of €360/ac.”

“Going by Teagasc figures, it costs up to €380/ac to produce the crop, leaving the farmer at a loss.

“That is before you take any account of a land charge if the land is rented,” he said.

With regards to 2017, he said, tillage farmers will have to look at what crops are making them the most money and make serious decisions with regards to renting land.

Pettit also said that farmers who are renting land will need to review if it left a negative return, especially in relation to land rented with entitlements.