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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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Weather causing problems for farmers

How has the recent bad weather been affecting farmers and crops – and what does this mean for the traditional summer fruit, the strawberry?

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

THE RECENT WEATHER conditions have been causing problems for Ireland’s farmers.

The rainy conditions and lack of sun have meant that some crops simply aren’t growing to levels expected, while it is proving harder for farmers to produce fodder for next year.

Irish Farmers Association President John Bryan said:

Across all sectors – dairy, beef, tillage and sheep – the impact on farm incomes over the last five weeks has been a hit of €100m due to higher feed costs and a loss of output. Every week where we are not seeing an improvement is adding to the impact on farm incomes. In addition, we estimate that extra feed will have to be bought in next winter to supplement silage, at a cost of over €60m.

Challenging

He explained:

As it is, the very challenging conditions of recent weeks have led to increased costs for farmers and caused major difficulties with silage harvesting. We estimate that half the crop has not been saved, which is a very unusual situation for farmers at the beginning of July.

He said that this delay could have very serious implications for next winter, “as adequate feed supplies will be critical for the expanding national herd”.

The adverse weather conditions will have a negative impact on farm incomes, continued Bryan.

Bad weather inevitably means higher costs, at a time when inputs are already rising in price.

Strawberries

A spokesperson from Keelings, which supplies fruit in Ireland and abroad, told TheJournal.ie that the weather has had an impact on their strawberry production in particular.

“It does causes problems as we have less light and so much water,” he said. As strawberries take longer to mature than some other fruits, the weather has meant that the crop has dropped.

He added that consumer demand has also dropped “because it’s not as lovely out there”.

It puts a lot more pressure on the business to ensure we are managing production well.
You tend to lose money but the only positive is consumer demand falls off as crop production does. If the sun shines we end up with more produce and consumers demand more.

He said that Ireland generally has the ideal climate for strawberries, with the proper amount of water and light levels. “June has been appalling. You can never plan for the weather,” he said, but added that the company is good at managing the situation.

We are hoping and praying that the sun shines.

“It makes it more difficult to farm and more costly to farm,” he said of the wet summer weather.

And the level of produce coming through is lower. So it just puts you under pressure.

Keelings also grows lettuce, pumpkin, Irish peppers, aubergines and apples as well as a range of soft fruits. However, strawberries are the biggest part of its crop.

Potatoes

Thomas Carpenter, the IFA potato chairman, said that potato planting season was interrupted by wet weather this year, so some crops were planted very late. The weather in June has also impacted on yields on early potatoes which are being harvested now, and the harvest is being delayed.

Yield per hectare will be  40 – 50 per cent lower than average. The last two seasons were good, but “for this season there is no doubt we are going to have a reduced output for potatoes”, said Carpenter. He said this also applies to countries such as England and Scotland, and across north western Europe.

Blight warnings have also increased this year, with Carpenter saying that “more effort is required to keep blight out of crops and to ensure we have a good quality crop”

Soil is at saturation point at some [farms]. You can actually see water in some fields in heavy soils.
There are difficulties in spraying some crops because ground conditions are so wet. There are fields that are impassable because of wet soil.

Carpenter added that if there is a spell of good weather in the coming weeks, that will help ease the workload for farmers, but will not necessarily increase yield.

Read:  It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this>

Read: Wet and dull: How Met Éireann summarised June’s weather>

Explainer: When and why are blight warnings issued?

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