Straw price has doubled since last year

One tenth of the straw still in the fields, unbaled, is the latest Teagasc estimate to sum up the difficult grain harvest.

And with a lack of fodder evident in some areas, there is increased demand for straw, pushing prices for the reduced supply to nearly double the 2016 price, in many cases.

Teagasc advisers say this has been exacerbated by the 5.2% fall in the cereal acreage in 2017 (to 263,000 hectares, down from 315,000ha in 2012), and almost no carryover of straw from 2016.

Then, poor weather delayed harvest and subsequent baling of straw, with field losses increased due to turning.

It was a harvest of extremes, with advisers saying it was a record year for spring barley yields at 7.8t/ha, the previous highest yield being 2015’s 7.7t.

And cereal quality was generally good in 2017, with the final dried grain easily surpassing the minimum quality parameters.

But harvesting conditions were difficult across the country, particularly in the north, resulting in significant losses on individual farms.

Grain production for the country is estimated at 2.3m tonnes, up 1% from 2016, but 4.5% lower than the five-year average.

The area of winter wheat decreased by 1.2%, but yields were above average at almost 10.4t/ha, and grain quality was good, at 73.2kg/hl, and average moistures of 18.5%. First wheats after break crops yielded particularly well.

The area of winter barley decreased 14%. Yields were higher than average in the north and lower in the south, due to a long dry spell in April and May, and take-all. Grain quality was good, at 64.4kg/hl, with moistures averaging 17.3%.

The winter oat area climbed slightly. Average yields at 8.9t/ha were ahead of the five year average, and quality was good, with moistures averaging 18.5%.

The spring wheat area decreased by 1,000ha to 6,400ha. Late ripening and harvesting in some areas dragged average yields down to 8t, equal to the five year average. Grain quality was modest.

The area of spring barley fell 2%, due to increased winter wheat planting, low profitability, and greening rules. Despite delayed sowings, yields held up very well, averaging 7.8 t (five-year average 7.2t).

The spring oats area decreased 1%. The national average yield was 7.5t, up 0.4t on the five-year average.

The area of winter oilseed rape held relatively steady in 2017, and crops were slightly above average, yielding 4.5t with moistures of 10.2%.

Spring rape increased to 1,900 ha, and yielded 2.9t with 13% moistures.

Spring beans increased to 11,444 hectares. Combined with winter beans and other proteins, the Protein Crops Scheme ceiling of 12,000 hectares was exceeded. This will result in a small reduction in the protein payment. Spring bean yields averaged 6.7t. moistures were slightly high, at 21.4%.

The area of potatoes including seed and earlies decreased 4%. Main crop growers report increased yields which will more than likely compensate for the reduced area.

n The autumn was very difficult for planting winter cereals, due to late harvesting of beans, difficulties in clearing straw, and poor soil conditions.

Initial expectations are that plantings will be down significantly, especially winter barley, although some growers continued to plant well into November.

The area of winter cereals is estimated at 121,000ha, down 14.5% from last year.

Winter crops have enjoyed excellent mild weather growing conditions, resulting in high plant counts and relatively few problems.

Since mid-November, there has been notable slug feeding in later sown winter cereals, and growers are advised to continue to monitor crops at risk.

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