Where does the tillage sector fit in to Irish farming?

It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to work out that cereal crops have recovered tremendously over recent weeks.

Sowing conditions, in many instances, were atrocious last back-end and, again, in the spring of this year. But nature has a wonderful way of re-bounding.

All of this positivity is a direct result of the ongoing warm spell; the wall-to-wall sunshine that we have all enjoyed over the past fortnight.

Even late-sown spring barley and wheat crops have reaped the benefit of the current good weather.

The longest day of the year is just three weeks away.  As a result, crops have enjoyed the longest possible periods of day length while totally bathed in warm sunlight. Photosynthetic activity has, no doubt, been pumping ahead at record levels.

At this stage it’s time for a quick reflection on what happened to the tillage sector in 2017. Despite the atrocious weather at harvest time, it turned out that many cereal growers recorded very heavy yields.

This, it seems, reflected the almost-perfect growing conditions that crops enjoyed at around this time last year.

So could we be looking at a repeat of this good news story in 2018?

But just think how good crops yields could actually be if cereal growers were guaranteed a decent harvest window.

The science pertaining to the actual growing of high-yielding combinable crops under Irish conditions has been well worked through at this stage.

The big imponderable remains that of getting crops successfully harvested in what can be very challenging weather and ground conditions.

Research work in Scotland has looked at the feasibility of producing cereals in raised beds. Under such circumstances, the crop would actually grow in soil that is physically above ground water levels – in even the wettest of years.

Another tillage research priority is that of improving straw quality.

Dairy and other livestock farmers are now keen to include straw in the winter rations they feed their stock. One assumes that the higher the feeding quality of straw, the more money these people will be prepared to pay for it.

Alas, there has been a lot of negativity expressed about the future prospects for tillage in Ireland. However, it appears that the sector can offer a lot to agriculture as a whole.

Growers will hope that the autumn (and late summer) of 2018 provides harvest conditions that they’ll need to end the year on a ‘high’.