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Irish Growers Achieve Record Cereal Yields in 2011

Ireland has globally high cereal yields and over the last decade, the highest average wheat and second highest average barley yields in the world. Speaking at the Teagasc National Tillage Conference in Kilkenny today, Wednesday 25 January, John Spink, Head of Crops Science, Teagasc, said that despite this history of high yields, 2011 produced some of the highest yields on record, with an average increase of 13% on 2010 yields.

He said: ”Favourable weather conditions in the spring resulted in good leaf and tiller formation, resulting in increased crop canopy sizes and ear numbers. This early spring growth was particularly important for spring barley. From May to harvest temperatures were below normal and average solar radiation was above normal, which combined to prolong grain fill and allow crops to fill the high grain numbers.

This combination of weather conditions resulted in the record yields achieved in 2011.”

Professor Ian Crute, chief scientist at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board in the UK, delivered the keynote address to the 500 tillage farmers attending. He addressed the “Challenges and Opportunities for Northern European Agriculture” saying that the global food system needs radical redesign. He described five primary challenges facing the sector:

-    Balancing future demand and supply sustainably
-    Addressing the threat of future food price volatility
-    Ending hunger
-    Food production in a low emissions world
-    Maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services while feeding the world

He stressed the need for efficient land use and its management to meet these challenges, describing it as “sustainable intensification”.

Speaking at the conference, Andy Doyle, tillage journalist with the Irish Farmers Journal said that there is general consensus that demand for grain and the prospects for grain prices will be good in the years ahead. He said that the challenge now facing the sector is to continuously supply this demand in the medium to long term as global population increases.

Research to investigate the issue of low protein levels in malting barley commenced at the Teagasc Crops Research Centre in Oak Park in 2011. This multi-year research programme is examining various aspects of fertilizer nitrogen use to determine the most appropriate strategy for spring barley. Preliminary results from the first year were presented at today’s conference. The importance of accurate and even application of fertilizers to crops was stressed along with the key role of getting the mechanics of the fertilizer spreader right to achieve efficient use of fertilizer.

Share farming arrangements are a relatively new business model used by Irish tillage farmers. Share farming allows the landowner and a share farmer to carry on separate farming businesses on the same land without forming a partnership or company. Ollie Whyte from Naul in County Dublin outlined how he has entered into share farming arrangements with other partners.