The break crop area available to Irish tillage farmers this autumn is set to increase, which is expected to boost grain yields in 2024. This was one of the key messages delivered by Tim O’Donovan, a representative from Seedtech, at the company’s variety trials event in Co. Waterford. O’Donovan stated that there has been a significant increase in the areas of spring beans, winter oilseed rape, and maize in 2023 compared to the previous year. This increase in break crop area provides cereal growers with the opportunity to plant first wheat or a productive winter barley option this autumn.
O’Donovan specifically highlighted the benefits of drilling new, high-yielding barley options when starting a new crop rotation. He mentioned that there are now proven conventional two-row, six-row, hybrid, and barley yellow dwarf virus tolerant winter barley varieties available to Irish cereal growers. These varieties have high yielding potential and provide a planting window option for growers during the September-October period. Hybrid barleys are particularly suited to follow break crops due to their additional yield potential, which has been proven in independent trials conducted by the Department of Agriculture.
O’Donovan also discussed the sustainability of tillage farms in Ireland. He stated that Seedtech is focused on producing varieties that are more sustainable, deliver more profit, and keep people in the industry. The Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, has asked the tillage industry to come up with solutions, and the new vision group, Food Vision Tillage Group, has been tasked with this work. O’Donovan emphasized the role of plant breeding in achieving sustainability, particularly in addressing challenges such as barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV). Seedtech offers seed barley varieties with BYDV tolerance, as well as turnip virus yellow tolerance in oilseed rape. They also have excellent genetics coming through in new oilseed rape varieties.
O’Donovan highlighted the drilling guide included in Seedtech’s recently published variety guide for 2023/2024. The guide provides a timetable for drilling specific crops on a weekly basis over a 14- to 15-week autumn planting season. This allows growers to have crop options that can be drilled from August to November, depending on weather conditions. O’Donovan suggested starting the planting season with oilseed rape, followed by hybrid rye and a BYDV-tolerant barley. By following this guide, a significant proportion of the available area for autumn planting can be drilled before the weather deteriorates.
O’Donovan expressed confidence in the Food Vision Tillage Group’s ability to deliver recommendations that will expand the crops sector in Ireland. He stated that the group is made up of experienced individuals from across the tillage sector and is chaired by Matt Dempsey. The goal of the group is to find ways in which the crops sector can collaborate with other agricultural sectors, such as pig, poultry, cattle, and dairy industries. O’Donovan emphasized the importance of all sectors thriving together for the overall success of Irish agriculture.
The trials site at Faithlegg, where Seedtech’s variety trials event took place, was praised for its excellent quality and free-draining land. Denis Dunne, the farm manager at Faithlegg, explained that they trial 1,000 crop varieties across 3,000 plots. These plots are used to screen the initial potential of new varieties, and those that show promise are further assessed at Faithlegg before being included in the national recommended list trials conducted by the Department of Agriculture. The farm grows 17 different crop species, including cereals, oilseeds, maize, legumes, and pulses, as well as specialty crops like spelt and linseed.
According to Dunne, the earliest winter barley plots will be ready for harvesting within the next 7-10 days. The Joyau variety, a six-row option with BYDV tolerance, is expected to be the earliest to ripen this year.