Watch: glasshouses destroyed but field veg safe from snow
Horticulturalists and vegetable and potato growers faced a range of impacts from Storm Emma.

Farmers with glasshouses and polytunnels bore the brunt of the recent bad weather, with many structures collapsing under the weight of the snow.

Several nurseries at Barnland, Gorey, Co Wexford were severely hit.

"It's bad enough to lose glass, but some of the structure is gone as well," said John Nangle, who lost more than half of his 2ac of glasshouses at the weekend.

"If the bars are bent, the glass won't go back in," he added, estimating the damage at €30,000 for which he did not have insurance. His nursery is now rented out – "this was my pension after the best part of 40 years," he told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Greenhouses collapsed under the weight of the snow at the nursery of John Nangle, Barnland, Gorey, Co Wexford. \ Picture courtesy of John Nangle

\ Picture courtesy of John Nangle

Horticulturalists must wait for the snow to melt before conducting a full survey of the damage because broken glass is still falling from the roofs and hiding under drifts on the floor.

John's neighbour Jim O'Connor of O'Connor Nurseries saw 4.5ac of glasshouses collapse under the weight of the snow. "Plants are lost too – glass shattered on top of them," he said. While his insurance covers some of the structure, the equipment and the bedding and pot plants inside were not insured.

"80% of our turnover would be in the next four months, with a peak in March and April," Jim said. The nursery's staff of 17 would normally go up to 40 with temporary workers at this time of year, but there is now nothing for them to do, he added. He now hopes to arrange temporary housing to continue growing and trading.

Blanket of snow protects fields

Vegetables grown in open fields were ironically less exposed to the elements where the snowfall was heaviest. Julian Hughes in Kells, Co Kilkenny harvested his unprotected carrots just before the storm.

"The rest was parsnips, which is less susceptible to frost, and carrots under straw," he said. The snow then provided a blanket insulating the vegetables from the frost.

"I prefer 30cm of snow than -10°C," Julian said.

His biggest headache was to find harvesting windows and keeping up with deliveries. Attention is now turning to field conditions, with ground preparation for pumpkins and for the next crop of carrots set to be delayed.

Potato frost

On potato farms the snow also offered protection and the risk of frost was highest in the northern half of the country where low temperatures hit the ground more directly. According to Teagasc potato specialist Shay Phelan, 1,000ac of potatoes remain to be dug nationwide and temperatures below -3°C or -4°C may have affected them.

The latest weather, however, has not yet had an impact on preparations for the next crop: "It will be the middle or end of this month before field work begins for the new season," said Shay.

Read more

Potato crops at risk of frost damage

Full coverage: Storm Emma

Wheat caught in strong weather market
Dryness is having an increasing impact on grain markets, but it will need to hit maize production to have a strong effect on prices.

Futures markets differed slightly last week, with wheat still tending upwards, but maize is flat or lower. Maize futures weakened on the back of suggested improved growing conditions in the US. All prices fell initially, but further reports of reduced wheat production forecasts from the Black Sea helped wheat prices recover.

Wheat production forecasts suggest lower production in Russia and Ukraine. As major exporters, their numbers affect market sentiment. Wheat production is also likely to be lower in the US, EU, Australia and Canada, so milling wheat markets are stronger.

It must be noted that with wheat prices tending up and maize tending lower, markets like ours will continue to be pressured by maize imports. This should be remembered, as current forward market offers may be selling opportunities.

Native prices are broadly similar on spot positions, but new-crop wheat is somewhat stronger at €190 to €192/t to the trade. There are some higher prices about which form part of specialist deals.

UK wheat prices were largely unchanged over the past week, with both delivered and ex-farm being largely similar. Ex-farm barley increased £4.10/t to £114.90 to more than restore the loss suffered in the price drop a week earlier. Ex-farm wheat was put at £159.70/t by the AHDB. The gap between wheat and barley might be described as massive in comparison to the situation here.

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Teagasc appoints new head of crops
John Spink will lead the organisation’s national tillage, forestry, horticulture and environmental, research and knowledge transfer programme.

The Teagasc authority has approved the appointment of John Spink as the new head of Teagasc's Crops, Environment and Land Use Programme (CELUP). The decision was made at its June meeting. Formerly of ADAS, the research and rural consultancy agency in the UK, Spink takes over from Paddy Browne who retired earlier this year.

Spink will lead the national tillage, forestry, horticulture and environmental, research and knowledge transfer programme.

Spink originally qualified from Leeds University with a degree in agricultural science, starting as a professional crop physiologist. He has worked in Teagasc Oak Park since 2009 and became head of the crops research department in 2010.

Following his appointment, he said he aims to “improve the competitiveness of our sectors as well as underpin the sustainability of the agricultural industry as a whole”.

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