Category: Archive

Irish agriculture under threat from steady rain

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The unprecedented continuing wet weather has led to a series of alerts from Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, in an effort to reduce farm losses as problems mount across a range of agricultural activities.

A fifth of the country’s malting barley, an essential ingredient in making Guinness stout and other beers, is now affected by disease as a result of the weather.

The rain has resulted in disease pressures on cereal crops reaching their highest level in 20 years, according to Teagasc’s chief tillage expert, Jim O’Mahony.

The wet weather is leading to a proliferation of a newly discovered leaf spotting disease on barley crops.

The crisis for potato farmers has also worsened. Almost 2,000 acres of potatoes remained to be planted when the wet weather began in mid-May.

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“The likelihood of these crops being planted now is slim,” said Teagasc potato specialist Tom Maher.

For those who did manage to plant potatoes, the situation is also grim with blight disease now widespread and a few fields of maincrop potatoes ploughed out where the disease was out of control.

The early potato variety British Queens is suffering a major problem with blackleg disease, which has no chemical cure. Maher also warned growers to be on their guard against a severe onslaught of slugs from mid-July, with the Rooster and Maris Piper varieties most at risk.

Special advisory clinics have been set up to give farmers guidance on dealing with the effects of the weather.

“The full resources of the organization are available to farmers who are affected,” Teagasc said.

Researchers are using new computer or internet-based technology aimed at fine-tuning cereal disease-control strategies.

Some of the worst rain in living memory in May and June has led to vegetable crops rotting in the ground and cattle brought in from waterlogged fields and given extra, expensive feedstuff to maintain milk production from dairy cows and animal performance in beef cattle.

It has rained every day since exceptional downpours saturated voters as they made their way to polling stations during the general election on May 17.

Silage making remains at less than 10 percent of normal. Grass growth and ground conditions are “severely affected.”

Vegetable growers are seeking emergency aid as the worst hit are in danger of going out of business. It is estimated that half of the lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower crop is already lost.

The rain has also deluged strawberry growers and most of the outdoor crop remains unpicked.

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