Harvest 2016 brought the fourth year in a row of low grain prices. Speaking at the Teagasc National Tillage Conference, which took place in Kilkenny, last Thursday, 26 January, Andy Doyle, crops specialist with the Irish Farmers Journal, showed that whilst global demand for grain has increased steadily for the last 15 years, in the last four years production has exceeded demand, resulting in increased carry-over stocks.
He also indicated that in each of those 4 years there have been forward selling opportunities for farmers to avail of during the growing season where prices were significantly above the harvest price.
This was confirmed by David Walsh-Kemmis, a tillage farmer from Stradbally, Co. Laois, who has been forward selling grain and has achieved an average grain price of between €15 and €20 per tonne higher than the green grain price at harvest in each year. He also explained how he has been altering his cropping to avail of as many premium grain markets as possible.
Sarah Clarke from ADAS in the UK described the markets there for grain for alcohol production, including wheat for bioethanol and whiskey production. She explained how low protein, soft wheat improves alcohol yield per tonne and processability, and indicated that with the correct variety choice, Irish wheat would be well suited for alcohol production.
Teagasc Crops Researcher, Dermot Forristal demonstrated the rotational benefits of break crops, increased profitability from rotation and identified potential market expansion for both oilseed rape and beans. However, he emphasised the need for an industry wide approach to developing these markets.
Kevin Cunningham of DLF presented the new Maize Guide, with the most up-to-date information on maize production and utilisation from the Maize industry group. He also described an example of a maize contract which can be used to formalise and facilitate the farm-to-farm trading of maize.
Steven Kildea, a plant pathologist with Teagasc, outlined the current situation regarding fungicide resistance across the main cereal diseases and what can be done to slow the development of resistance. Liz Glynn, from the Teagasc Crops Science department, Oak Park, demonstrated that by using the correct timings for fungicide sprays, rates of product can reduced, presenting significant opportunities for cost savings to the grower.
On-going work at Teagasc, Oak Park to develop varieties with improved resistance to septoria was presented by Ewen Mullins and Ger Hehir. Whilst Ronan Byrne, a Teagasc Walsh Fellow jointly funded by the ISTA, described work on herbicide resistance in grass weeds and his discovery of resistance to the ‘fop’ and ‘dim’ class of herbicides in wild oats.