background image
SEPTEMBER 2018
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Feature
There are serious di culties facing the
horticultural industry including low produce
prices, labour shortages and the weather
of 2018 but there is signifi cant opportunity
for development as envisaged by the
Horticultural Industry Forum (HIF), writes Jim
O'Mahony, Crops & Horticulture Specialist.
The weather of 2018 has been very challenging for growers
of vegetables and potatoes. It was late April before soil
conditions were suitable for sowing/planting on many
farms. May was very dry and drought conditions were
widespread in June and July. Soil Moisture Defi cits (SMD)
were historically high in the east and south-east, peaking
at 80-90mm in July. This compares to 30-40mm in a
normal year.
In late July, Teagasc Horticulture Development
Department published a short report on the Impact of the
current drought on the fi eld vegetable sector.
Stephen Alexander, Teagasc vegetable advisor, emphasised
that the drought was having a very serious eff ect on the
fi eld vegetable sector: "There has been virtually no rain
in one of the main production areas, county Dublin, since
the beginning of June. And to make matters worse the
dry weather comes in on top of one of the worst springs
on record. March was cold and wet whilst April delivered
above average rainfall in all areas."
These adverse weather patterns have created very diffi cult
growing conditions for all outdoor vegetable crops. Due
to the late spring, growers were late to get sowing and
planting. In some cases sowings/plantings were missed
altogether because of wet soil conditions. Early crops
that would have been sown or planted out in March
were skipped; other crops were planted out in less than
favourable conditions. The initial poor establishment was
made worse by the subsequent drought. A wet spring also
made growers pick their lightest ground for their early
crops, which were then more vulnerable to drought when
dry weather hit.
The dry weather also created knock-on eff ects: weed
control was more diffi cult as residual herbicides need
soil moisture to work properly. Pest numbers increase
during warm spells e.g. aphid, fl ea beetle and caterpillar
control became an issue this season. And the situation
was worsened by the fact that systemic insecticides didn't
work well in drought conditions as plant sap movement
slowed down.
Cost implications
The report highlights the cost implications for primary
producers of vegetables. Input costs this season rose
SEPTEMBER 2018
Feature
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Horticulture under pressure
but has future potential
26
IFM_September_2018_Main_Section.indd 26
03/09/2018 20:13