Co. Down agronomist, Richard Owens, has confirmed a significant increase in the cereal acreage grown in Northern Ireland this year.

He told Agriland: “In the case of the farmers that I am working with, the figure the region of 10%. Most of the increase is accounted for by additional spring barley.

“In the wake of what was happening in Ukraine, a significant number of farmers opted to grow grain this year.

“The decision was taken as an insurance policy against the very high feed prices that will be the order of the day for a considerable period of time.

“One consequence of this has been the very significant reduction of suitable land that is available for potato growers,” he added.

Cereal acreage

While the overall cereal acreage might be up across Northern Ireland, the agronomist is also reporting that the quantities of fertiliser nitrogen (N) put out on to individual cereal crops is significantly down, year-on-year.

“In the case of winter barley, we could be talking about an average reduction of 20units/ac, from 140 down to 120 units,” said Owens.

“Where wheat is concerned, reductions are of a similar magnitude – in this case from 180 units down to 160 units/ac.

“And the impact of this approach is now becoming very visible. I walked winter barley crops earlier this week and it’s pretty obvious that they don’t have the same strength as would have been the case in previous years,” he continued.

“The tiller numbers are there. But the size of the ears and the breadth of the stems are significantly smaller than would normally be the case.”


According to Owens, a number of growers put out significant quantities of slurry and farmyard manure onto barley and wheat ground this year in order to help defray the fast escalating cost of bagged nitrogen.

“There is also a growing demand for crop biostimulants at the present time,” he explained.  

According to Owens, winter barley and wheat crops are now at the full ear and flag leaf emergence stages respectively.  

“Wheat crops should receive their final dressing of nitrogen now,” he commented.

Rhyncosporium infection levels are fast rising in barley crops across Northern Ireland

“Disease levels are starting to rise in all cereal crops at the present time. The return of the rains has ramped up the rhynchosporium pressure on barley crops.

“Growers must adhere to their agreed spraying programmes in full.

“Rhyncho is always difficult to clear from the bottom leaves of plants. As a result, spores can be easily splashed on to the upper canopy by the action of rain droplets,” he concluded.