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Future Weather – Future Farming

The records of Irish weather show a robust warming trend in recent decades, which is consistent with the global picture. An increase in rainfall is also evident but this may be partly a feature of natural variability. Those were the views of Ray McGrath from Met Eireann who was speaking at the Teagasc Conference – Future Weather - Future Farming which is taking place in Dublin today, Thursday, 5th December.

He said that Irish climate has become wetter with mean annual rainfall increasing by about 5% in recent decades. There is also evidence of an increase in frequency of very wet days. He said that rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns will impact on Irish agriculture but there is still uncertainty regarding specific details. He said that it is unlikely that the weather related to the recent fodder crisis in the spring could have been anticipated months in advance.

Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle said: ”That the long term trend towards higher temperatures and higher levels of rainfall mask a potentially greater challenge from shifts in seasonal weather patterns and increasing weather volatility. Seasonal shifts in rainfall patterns will pose challenges for agricultural land management, with inert-annual variability in grass and crop yields expected to rise”.

Teagasc Economist Thia Hennessy estimated that the total cost of the recent weather related fodder crisis during 2012 and the spring 2013 to be over €450 million. She stressed that fodder crises are not a new phenomenon with the most recent pervious one being endured by farmers in 1998/1999.

Teagasc Nutritionist Siobhan Kavanagh outlined the lessons learnt by farmers in dealing with a fodder deficit. She said that those farmers that took action early and in a planned way, revising their feed budget two to three times during the winter, came through the difficult period better than those that left it late to take action.

Teagasc has recently launched a grassland database called PastureBase Ireland, which gives very good information on national and regional grass growth. Michael O Donovan, Teagasc Researcher said: “Average grass production in 2013 was 11.2 tonnes of grass dry matter per hectare. However there was a larger variation between farms in terms of dry matter production ranging from 16 t DM/ha to 8 t DM/ha.