Satisfactory yields and higher prices have enabled tillage farmers to weather the input cost surge in 2022, says the IFA.

However, IFA grain chair Kieran McEvoy said fertiliser prices threaten tillage farmers' margin for harvest in 2023.

He warned that “at present, 2023 futures prices are €40-€50/t lower than 2022 and fertiliser prices on the whole will be higher for next season.”

“Any further falls in world grain markets after planting this autumn will leave margins very tight or non-existent,” he said.

‘Historically high levels’

The IFA grain chair said that while “prices remain volatile” and “have fallen significantly throughout the summer”, they remain at "historically high levels”.

With harvest in full swing for tillage farmers, he said fertiliser prices are now a major concern for 2023.

McEvoy described how winter barley, winter oats and winter rape harvests are now completed, except for small pockets in the north-west of the country.

“A warm, dry month of July ensured grain moistures were much lower than normal and straw has been easier to bale. After a mixed winter barley harvest, yields have improved for other crops.

“Winter oilseed rape is yielding 15% better than is perhaps typical. This is positive news, given the 4,500 extra hectares planted last autumn,” he said.

Spring crops

McEvoy said farmers are moving to the harvesting of spring crops this week.

He said that approximately 35% of the national area has now been harvested, with farmers just starting into winter wheat and spring barley, which make up 60% of Ireland’s total cropped area.

The Laois tillage farmer explained how the current spell of good weather will likely see spring barley being cut more widely in south Leinster and said that the wheat harvest will also commence in the mid-eastern counties. However, he said it is too early for an accurate assessment on winter wheat and spring barley yields.

“Progress is greater in the south and south-east, which is to be expected with the harvest of spring barley underway in the last few days. Rainfall has hindered harvesting progress for some farmers in Co Donegal,” he said.

Straw Incorporation Measure

The Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM) has seen very good uptake, with 52,000ha being chopped, noted McEvoy.

He said some farmers are chopping additional straw outside of the scheme this year, to reduce offtake of P and K nutrients and lower fertiliser requirements.

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