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MINISTER CREED ON
TRADE, FUNDING AND FARM SAFETY
MANAGING SOILS AND FERTILISERS
FOR HIGH CROP YIELDS AND PROFIT
A SWEET PROSPECT FOR BEET?
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Grain sector under pressure
In this issue of
Irish Farmers Monthly
we focus on the tillage sector. While
it is widely recognised that Irish grain growers are among the most efficient in
the world, there is also an underlying reality that there is a global glut of cereal
production and clear evidence of huge untapped potential for further yield
increases and more land being planted to cereal crops. Irish and European
grain growers, for the most part, do not have access to the genetic modification
(GM) technologies which are driving yield across the globe. This will place us
at an increasing disadvantage in future years.
Unfortunately, there is also evidence that the price pressures of recent years
are having an impact on Irish grain growers, with acreage dropping as farmers
convert their land to grass, either to facilitate owned or leased dairy units.
While the Basic Farm Payment (BFP) does provide an income safety net, the
fact that grain growing is uneconomic for most growers augurs badly for the
future of the sector. That the country needs a sizeable and secure cereal sector
must be self-evident. An indigenous supply of grain for livestock feeding is
essential. It is patently a risky strategy to completely rely on imported grains
for our livestock and poultry industries. In addition, there are the burgeoning
brewing and distilling businesses that must source native grain in order to
sell their beers and whiskeys as authentically Irish. While straw is often the
afterthought in grain production, its value for feeding, bedding and for the
mushroom sector is significant.
Our cereal sector is nowhere near a doomsday situation. Many of our growers
have large capital outlays in machinery and grain storage facilities that will not
be lightly relinquished. In most years, our higher yield potential buffers low
prices somewhat. Greater scale has delivered some efficiencies for growers
but that option is decreasing as the dairy sector increasingly competes for
land rental. The recent Teagasc National Tillage Conference outlined some
further problems looming, including increased disease resistance to many of
the fungicides that help deliver the high winter wheat yields, especially, that are
being achieved by Irish growers. Limiting the impact of these developments
will be a major challenge for our researchers and farmers in the years ahead.
Elsewhere in the Monthly, we follow the efforts to resurrect a beet industry
in Ireland. From an agronomy perspective, the value of beet in a rotation
is considerable. Adding yield potential to following crops should not be
understated but the crop itself must stand up as a high-value option. A
potential beet-processing site has been purchased and plans are in place to
have a sugar and ancillary processing facility in operation within three years.
That is an ambitious target and will require that a few more questions around
beet price be answered. In addition, there will need to be a big buy-in by
potential beet growers, both in terms of growing beet and in part-funding a
processing facility. Even with the advanced mechanisation and technology
available today, beet growing is not for the faint hearted. Most of the farm-
based machinery requirements would have to be reviewed, with some
crossover from grain management possible. The financing plan includes the
necessity for a capital contribution from growers. If they are expected to invest
large five-figure sums, depending on their acreage ambitions, then the business
plan for a rejuvenated beet industry must stand up to very close scrutiny
22 New nitrogen advice for cereal crops
26 A commitment to the tillage sector
28 The potential benefits of biostimulants
30 Top award for Cork tillage farmer
34 Managing soils and fertilisers for high
crop yields and profit
38 Disease and pest control in cereals
40 Novel food uses for Irish cereals
42 Sulphur's role in highly productive grass
TILLAGE FOCUS >
4 Up Front
11 Business News
Minister Michael Creed
16 Farmer to Farmer
A sweet prospect for beet?
44 Farm safety
48 Management Hints
71 Rural Life
78 Very End