Teagasc’s head of agronomy John Spink has told AgriLand that only cereal crops that have been in standing water for up to seven days will lose yield potential in the wake of the recent floods.

“I am not sure how things look nationwide. But  we can confirm that some low lying crops at Oakpark have taken a hit because of the heavy rain and subsequent flooding problems.

“Up to this point winter barley crops have looked tremendously well,” he added.

“Establishment rates have been high and the degree of tillering has been equally promising. All of this bodes well in terms of crops’ overall yield potential.”

Spink went on to confirm that work into assessing those varieties of wheat and barley that best suit Irish conditions is a key focus of the current Teagasc crops research programmes.

“And it’s not all about yield,” he stressed.

“Cereal varieties with an inherently higher resistance to disease such as Septoria could be more profitable to grow. In such circumstances, the improved margin will be achieved on the back of a reduced reliance of fungicide sprays, in order to maintain optimal crop health levels.”

Spink continued: “Our work is currently providing insights into the actual processes that determine the actual yield potential of cereal crops. For example, many growers believe that it takes a number of days with temperatures below freezing point to encourage vernalisation.

“This is, in fact, not the case. The reality is that 50 days with average temperatures of between two degrees and 10 degrees Celsius is sufficient in this regard.

“This is why I can say with a fair degree of certainty that winter cereal yields should hold up well in 2014, provided weather patterns remain reasonably normal.”

The Oakpark research scientist went on to point out that hybridisation continues to play a key role in the development of new cereal varieties with a significantly higher yield potential.

“We have grown a number of the new hybrid winter barley varieties at Oakpark. And there are further developments in this regard coming down the track. New hybrid spring barley and wheat varieties will, more than likely, be commercialised in the not too distant future.”

Spink concluded: “Our aim is to identify combinable crop production systems that are the most sustainable for Irish conditions. Obtaining good yields will be part of this. But the overall objective is that of maximising margin per hectare.”