The year ahead will be one of significant change for tillage farmers in Ireland with all aspects of their businesses coming under a spotlight.

From a farm support and regulatory perspective, the full thrust of new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) measures will take effect.

In addition, new and updated nitrates measures will have to be incorporated into all farm business plans.   

Tillage outlook

With regard to the economics of crop production, grain prices have fallen back significantly since the last harvest. But there doesn’t seem to be the same level of reduction in fertiliser prices coming down the track.

On the back of these changes, Teagasc is now predicting that tillage incomes in Ireland may well halve in 2023, relative to 2022, with many farms coming back to a break-even scenario.

So the year ahead will present tillage farmers with the central challenge of managing these risks correctly.

All of these matters were discussed in detail on a recent Tillage Edge broadcast. Teagasc’s Michael Hennessy, Shay Phelan and Ciaran Collins participated in the discussion.

According to Collins, the area of winter barley planted out for 2022/2023 is in the region of 50,000ha to 52,000ha. This is down significantly from the 70,000ha planted out in both 2021 and 2022.

“Growers in the north-east got away with, pretty much, a normal planting season. But this was not the case further south,” Collins said.

“Kicking in here was some reluctance on the part of growers to plant barley early and the fact that the weather turned against them.”

Collins also pointed out that spring barley has now become a high yielding option for many growers.

“And when the weather didn’t oblige in the autumn, this was a factor in the minds of many farmers,” he further explained.

Teagasc is now predicting that the 2023 wheat area might creep up to 55,000ha, which is pretty much in line with previous years. Very few oat crops were sown during the autumn period. However, this can be fully compensated for come the spring of 2023.

But the big crop increase of 2022/2023 has come with oilseed rape.

“We are estimating an area that is just short of 20,000ha. The weather at the time was suitable for sowing. In addition, the potential margins that can be generated from oilseed rape are significant,” Collins said.

“The forward prices available for rape remain strong. As a consequence, the crop may well turn out to be a good bet for Irish growers in 2023.”