The overall production of cereals for 2018 is estimated to be approx. 1.8 million tonnes, down from 2.3 million tonnes in 2017, according to latest figures from Teagasc.
This 500,000 tonne reduction from 2017 is significantly below the 5 year rolling average of 2.3 million tonnes. It is the smallest recorded harvest since 1995.
The figures in Teagasc’s latest crops report also shows that the the total cereal area continues to fall.
The area of cereals reduced by 4.9pc in 2018 to 258,000 hectares from 271,700 hectares in 2017. In 2013 the total cereal area planted was 307,800 hectares.
Yields of all cereals were below average as late planting of spring crops and a summer drought had a significant impact on crop yield. The greatest impact of the drought was on yields in the south and east while the north and west were least affected.
The area of spring barley planted increased by 11pc in 2018 to 126,169 ha, compared to 2017. This was mainly due to a lack of cropping options available to growers when planting began in April.
Nationally, spring barley recorded average yields of 5.6 t/ha (2.5 –e 9.0 t/ha). This is below the 5 year average of 7.2 t/ha and the lowest average yield since 2002. The area of winter barley decreased by 12pc in 2018 to 57,175ha.
The area of winter wheat decreased by 11pc in 2018 to 53,902ha. This was as a direct result of the poor planting conditions in autumn 2017.
Yields of winter wheat were below average at approx. 8.9 t/ ha (7.8-10.25 t/ha), this is below the 5 year rolling average of 10.06 t/ha.
Spring wheat area decreased by 3,300 ha (-48pc) in 2018, to 3,500 ha due to the very poor conditions in March for planting.
The value of straw increased significantly in 2018. Lower than normal straw yields combined with the overall reduced area planted and an increasing demand has resulted in straw price increases of 50-100pc per bale in some areas.
The winter oat area fell significantly to 10,100ha , down 30pc from 2017. Like other autumn crops, oats established reasonably well and emerged well from the winter. Foliar disease levels were moderate however mildew was present in most crops in spring but tended to dry up later in the season. Average yields were well below 2017 levels at 7.8t/ha (6.0 – 8.75t/ha) which is below the five year average of 8.62 t/ha.
The spring oat area decreased significantly to 7,500 ha in 2018 a decrease of 25% on 2017. This again was a result of the poor soil conditions throughout March.
The area of winter oilseed rape increased from 7,765 to 8,882 ha in 2018 an increase of 14pc. Crops established very well and developed good canopies due to earlier sowing and a mild winter.
The cold spring slowed development and crops flowered later than in 2017. Foliar disease levels (Phoma & Light Leaf Spot) were reported to be low in 2018. Nationally, crops yields were average at 4.2 t/ha (3.0 – 5.5 t/ha) with low moistures of 9.6pc.
The spring rape area was 1,634 ha. Spring oilseed rape crops yielded 2.5 t/ha (2.0 – 3.1 t/ha) with reasonable moistures of 12.0pc.
The total area of potatoes including seed and earlies has decreased again in 2018 by 1000 hectares to 8,175 hectares this equates to a 6pc reduction in area compared to 2017.
Due to the poor spring very little of the early crops were planted and indeed planting of the main crop potatoes only started in late April and early May.
The early summer drought had a very significant effect on both quality and yields this year with secondary growths common in many crops.
However blight levels were very low as a consequence of the dry weather. Harvesting began approximately three weeks later than normal but conditions for most of the crop harvest were excellent.
In fact soils were so dry that bruising of the crop became a concern for many growers. Yields are reported to be significantly lower than 2017 which may result in tight supplies in spring 2019.