According to College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprises (CAFRE) crops advisors, spring barley seed may be in short supply this year.

This is a direct consequence of the widespread poor harvest conditions that characterised last year.

According to CAFRE agronomist, Leigh McClean, cereal growers can look at alternative spring cropping options.

McClean said:

“Whilst the window for sowing winter wheat has now passed, spring wheat remains an option, often thriving better in damper, colder seedbeds than barley.

“Spring oats are less costly to grow. They also have the benefit of being a take-all break, so they could be useful in getting rotations back on track this autumn.”

Protein crops

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed the opening of the Protein Crops Scheme for 2024.

In a statement, DAERA said: “Spring beans are, therefore, proving popular with local growers as they are easy to grow, relatively low cost and provide a cereal break which often boosts yields in subsequent cereals due to their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen (N).

“As the area of beans grown increases, so too is local demand, though it is best to investigate a few marketing options in your area before planting.

“Spring beans perform best when drilled early into good conditions. So, growers should be prepared to take advantage of an early drilling window.”

A spokesperson for DAERA explained that it a case of having seed available on farm and applying pre-emergence herbicide immediately after drilling.


Turning to potatoes, McClean confirmed that seed supplies are also reported to be tight this year.

“Growers should check seed as it arrives on farm and have a sample hot boxed to determine the presence of disease and overall sprouting vigour,” he continued.

“Pre-sprouting, including tray and bag systems, must ensure adequate temperature control plus ventilation and light. These conditions control sprout growth and protect against frost.”

Potato growers are also advised to set up seed of early potato varieties in sprouting boxes with the aim of producing one strong sprout per seed tuber, one stem and a small number of large tubers early.

The opposite applies to main crop potatoes where multiple sprouting is encouraged to produce many tubers, which can increase in size over a longer growing season.

Mini-chitting is a system of seed preparation, which aims to produce seed tubers with sprouts no more than 2mm long.

Seed is stored at 3-4°C until close to planting time. Refrigeration is then turned off for seven to 10 days to allow chitting to occur.

Once sprouts of 1-2mm have formed evenly, seed is cooled down again to 3-4°C to prevent further sprout growth before planting.

The main benefit of mini-chitting is a crop that emerges quickly and evenly.