This year’s winter barley harvest will get underway in about a week’s time, according to Co Down cereal grower Allan Chambers.
“Crops are looking well,” he said.
“In our own case all the winter barley crops have grown out tremendously well. There are no gaps or poor areas in any of the fields, so we are looking forward to some pretty decent yields this year. Straw quality should also be good.”
Allan continued:“We used the six-row hybrid variety Huntingdon this year.
“Hybrid technology has transformed winter barley production. It is anticipated that the same approach can deliver for winter wheat.
“Global grain yields have remained pretty static for the past number of years. It will take a genuine technological breakthrough to allow arable farmers to push on and deliver higher yields. Hybrid wheats may well help make this a reality.” Allan said that all the cereal crops grown in Northern Ireland are looking tremendously well at the present time, adding: “We are looking towards a main harvest date this year of in and around August 20th. By that stage we should be cutting spring barley, which is the main cereal crop grown in this part of the world.
“Grain prices are holding up quite well and it looks like straw will be making £20 per round bale at harvest.”
Allan confirmed that Northern Ireland’s arable acreage has continued to decline.
“The area of land dedicated to cereal crops has fallen dramatically over the past forty years. This has reflected the growing dominance of grass-based agriculture.
“If current trends continue, there will be no arable sector left in Northern Ireland in another 20 years’ time.
“This would be a tragedy, from both a production and environmental point of view.”
The Downpatrick man confirmed that local cereal growers are facing into uncertain times for many reasons.
“Brexit is just one issue,” he added.
“At the very heart of the challenge facing arable producers is the uncertainty regarding what form of support will be available to them over the coming years.
“The current area-based system is working well. It allows local growers to remain competitive, when compared to their counterparts in the rest of the UK and Europe.
“So it’s essential that we retain what we have got, where future support measures are concerned.
“This message has been clearly communicated to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. It is important that the department takes this point on board and ensures that the support policies required by local cereal growers are fully implemented for the future.”