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.
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.