Tillage farmers in Ireland are eagerly working towards completing their harvests, particularly for wheat crops. Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, is advising farmers to prioritize harvesting grain, including winter wheat and relevant spring barley crops. However, later-sown spring barley crops are expected to yield disappointing results, both in terms of grain and straw. Furthermore, these crops may have high protein values, raising concerns about their suitability for brewing or distilling. Following the harvest, farmers will focus on baling straw and preparing for the upcoming winter oilseed rape planting season.
Met Éireann, the Irish meteorological service, has forecasted that high pressure will build across the country in the coming days, with temperatures expected to exceed 20°C on Wednesday and Thursday. This improving weather conditions will be beneficial for the forage maize harvest, which is on track to produce impressive yields. Northern Ireland, in particular, has seen a 10% increase in the total area dedicated to maize crops compared to the previous year. Maizetech, a company specializing in maize technology, attributes this growth to the return of experienced growers and new farmers venturing into maize cultivation for the first time.
Robert Duncan from Maizetech explains that the decision to switch from spring barley to maize was influenced by the cold and wet conditions experienced in late April and May. The subsequent warm and dry weather in June proved to be advantageous for maize crops. The use of new compostable films has also contributed to the success of maize cultivation in Northern Ireland. These films provide protection to the young crops while allowing them to break through easily, ensuring unhindered growth. Unlike the previous ‘oxo’ films, the new materials are resistant to heat stress and do not require physical cutting to allow the plants to emerge. Additionally, the new films are highly biodegradable, leaving little to no evidence of their presence 10 to 12 weeks after planting.
Maize is no longer considered a marginal crop in Northern Ireland, thanks to the development of maize varieties specifically suited to the region’s climate. Companies like Pioneer have invested in breeding new maize varieties that can thrive in northern Europe and Scandinavia, benefiting farmers in Northern Ireland. Maize crops in the region can now yield between 16 to 18 tonnes of fresh weight per acre, with dry matter and starch values exceeding 30%. The first locally grown maize crops are expected to be harvested in early October, assuming favorable weather conditions in the coming weeks.
In terms of crop management, new options, such as the application of liquid nitrogen at the 10-leaf stage, are allowing farmers to maximize the potential of their maize crops. This technique is considered a game changer in optimizing crop growth and yield.