31 August 2020
Recent storms have led to over a 20 per cent loss in tillage crop yields in some places, a new Teagasc survey estimates.
The strong winds and rain that resulted from Storm Ellen and Francis have resulted in damages to crops “nationwide”, according to the body, and have led to crops falling over “with the worst affected losing grain to the ground” and over a fifth of yield losses in certain locations.
The survey also noted that ground conditions are becoming a major challenge for growers following recent heavy rain and that half of this year’s tillage crops remains to be harvested.
The North East of the country has been the “hardest hit”, Teasgac said, as traditional winter cereals were replaced by later maturing spring crops due to wet weather last autumn.
Tillage farmers’ incomes will be “substantially reduced” this year and “further compounded” by the deteriorating quality of crops following what Teagasc referred to as “poor weather”.
“Cash flow will be a problem for many farmers,” Teagasc Head of Crop Knowledge Transfer Department Michael Hennessy said.
“Teagasc are encouraging growers to talk to their local advisor during this difficult time to help with financial analysis, budgeting and general support,” he added.
Changes in tillage incomes are not unprecedented in recent times, as earnings were estimated to be 17 per cent lower last year when compared to 2018.
A severe drought in 2018 impacted yields, but at the time, Teagasc said “most farms returned good overall financial returns”.
Climate and crop yields
Human-induced warming has led to changes in rainfall patterns, which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s land report, “altered the start and end of growing seasons, contributed to regional crop yield reductions, reduced freshwater availability and put biodiversity under further stress and increased tree mortality”.
In the case of the recently landed Storm Ellen and Storm Francis, as Teagasc pointed out, the subsequent strong winds and heavy rain had a severe impact on tillage crops around the country.
While wind speed is rarely attributable to human causes, climate scientists count it as a “relatively well-accepted fact” that as global temperatures increase, it is very likely that “extreme precipitation” will too.
This is because the atmosphere holds 7 per cent more water vapour for every 1 degree of warming it absorbs.
Storm surges will additionally not only affect coastal communities, they will also impact inland areas through lake and river flooding as they take their course.