Teagasc has estimated the cost of producing cereal crops, fodder beet, maize and winter oilseed rape to be down by approximately 20% each in 2024.

The main reduction in costs came from a decline in fertiliser prices and, as a result, there is little change to the cost of producing a crop of peas or beans. Plant protection and machinery costs remain similar to 2023.

The crop cost and returns figures for 2024 were released at the Teagasc Crops Forum last week and are essential reading as farmers plan for the coming season and prepare to plant winter crops.

The costs, breakeven yields and gross margins at different yields are all detailed in Tables 1 and 2.

Grain prices used in the estimates are a big question mark. Most farmers have no settled price for 2023, so 2024 remains a big unknown. However, €210/t (wheat), €200/t (barley) and €190/t (oats) are used in the figures.

Using those prices and the lowered costs, the breakeven yield has declined across crops for 2024. For example, Teagasc estimated that winter wheat in 2023 needed to yield 9.2t/ha (3.7t/ac) to breakeven.

In 2024, Teagasc has placed the breakeven yield at 8.1t/ha (3.3/ac). These figures do not include land rental costs or income from the BISS, CRISS or Eco-Scheme payments.

At a price of €250/t, malting barley would need to yield 5.1t/ha (2.1t/ac) to breakeven in 2024. However, this year, many farmers failed meeting malting requirements, so farmers should think long and hard about planting the crop and look at other options that may deliver a better return.

Although 2023 was an exceptional year for malting failures, farmers must protect themselves from large levels of risk. So, consider the areas of each crop being planted and what happens if they do not meet specifications.