Following on from an extremely difficult growing season in 2023, there is a spring seed shortage. You will have read this many times by now.

Lower yields and poorer grain quality than normal, along with an increase in spring cropping area due to wet weather at winter planting, have all led to a seed shortage.

At present, the Irish Seed Trade Association estimates that there is enough seed to plant the equivalent spring area as last year. In 2023, almost 168,000ha of spring barley, wheat, oats and beans were planted.

However, this season, Teagasc estimates that 35,000ha (86,5000ac) less winter cereals were planted and so this amount of seed is estimated to be short if all of that area is converted to spring cereals and beans. However, there is ample Irish winter seed available at lower cost than spring seed imports, up to €200/t less. This seed is Irish seed with a higher voluntary standard.

As a result, Teagasc and the Irish Seed Trade Association are advising farmers to continue to plant winter wheat up until the middle of February.

Seed derogation and availability

The seed that is available for spring planting at present is mostly made up of Irish seed, which has a minimum germination percentage of 85% and a higher voluntary standard for grass weeds, meaning it is free of all grass weeds like wild oats, blackgrass and bromes.

The Irish Seed Trade Association in Ireland has received a derogation on a relatively small amount of seed which meets less stringent germination requirements.

The derogation was granted by the European Commission due to a shortage of seed across Europe. This derogation has also been granted to some other countries and would not be granted if more seed was available to import.

The derogation means that germination levels can drop to 75%. However, the majority of seed coming to market under this derogation in Ireland will be only slightly under 85% and the germination percentage will be clearly marked on the seed bag. It will require a slightly higher seed rate.

Seed companies are also importing some seed from Europe. This seed has to meet EU certification standards. Small quantities will come from the UK and are also required to meet EU standards.

However, it should be noted that this seed will not meet the same high standards as Irish seed and while every effort will be made for it to be clean seed, it could contain grass weeds.


Farmers should be aware that trading in uncertified seed is a criminal offence.

They should not purchase seed from another farmer.

Farmers can home-save their own seed and go through the necessary payments of royalties, but this cannot be traded. 2023 also brought risk for home-saved seed as weather impacted germination, grain quality and disease levels so it is risky.

Those home-saving seed should test grain in the Department of Agriculture’s seed testing laboratory.

Planting winter wheat in January and February

Teagasc’s Ciarán Collins has said that winter wheat can be successfully grown up to mid-February if weather conditions allow.

He advised that seed rate should be similar to spring wheat and yield is also likely to be similar to spring wheat.

He noted that a Department of Agriculture trial planted in Cork on 1 February 2023 had a control yield of 9.08t/ha (3.67t/ac) with varieties JB Diego, KWS Dawsum and Graham. However, the highest-yielding variety was a spring variety, KWS Fixum.


He advised farmers to use an earlier-maturing variety like Graham. He said that inputs need to be tailored to a spring crop, particularly nitrogen. He warned growers not to plant in March.