Ireland | Too Hot for Hort? As Emerald Isle Fries, Food Producers Adjust

Una Ni Bhroin and Padraig fahy

North west Europe is not known for its soaring temperatures. Yet, this summer, even Ireland has seen a prolonged drought, with almost no rain for weeks, a similar forecast for the weeks ahead,  and temperatures reaching 30 degrees in this more typically temperate place. How are horticulturalists on the yellow-singed Emerald isle coping?

Padraig Fahy and his partner Úna Ní Bhroin are organic horticulturalists with 45 acres, between their own and rented land in Galway in the west of Ireland. We chatted about the weather and its impact on growers.

Oliver Moore: How are growing conditions?

Padraig Fahy: There’s been 30mm of rain since mid-May, we usually get three times that in May and June.  A lot of the crops are suffering – we might lose half of our beetroot for example. We put in a borehole and dug a well, and that has really helped. We went down 320 feet. Water managing is now the equivalent of half a job on the farm, and there are extra costs too. 

The April and May crops were delayed by the late spring, then summer came strong – we’re harvesting now, but the plantings going in the last 2-3 weeks have suffered. Aphids and root fly are more of a problem – the plants are weaker and the heat increases their breeding.

OM: Are there positives?

PF: On the plus side – we’ve lots of scallions; we got them off to shops, there were 6-7000 bunches as surplus, due to the late spring. Growers will have lots of gluts for e.g. with lettuce and scallions.  Brassicas are suffering especially – they’re a big leafy plant, so the sun bakes down on it. Smaller thinner plants are doing ok. Tunnel crops are doing well with environmental controls, with moisture and air, we’ll have cherry tomatoes this week, cucumbers and courgettes are flying.

OM: How has the heat changed what you do?

PF: When planting out, you are preparing ground, irrigating and planting in 24 hours – if you expose soil the moisture will go away into the air. We’re also planting a bit deeper too, then irrigating immediately.

We can only irrigate on 40% of our land with our own system – the other fields are too far away, so we need a tanker for these fields and there are financial and physical costs. We had to get in a generator and buy fuel before the ESB connection came in.

A lot of the consequences will show up late July and August. Some crops might never recover – late parsnips really need moisture to germinate, only half will germinate – carrots too, yields will be back across the board. We’re using about 10,000 gallons to the acre for most crops. You’ve to be patient. The moisture needs to get time to get down to the roots, otherwise it’s a waste.

OM: How are the hours?

PF: We’re starting earlier- 6am – and then going out in the evenings again from 8 til 11. I’ve spoken to growers who are working Spanish hours – working until lunch then staying inside, then working in the evening time, then eating late.

UNB: We were in our wedding gear and ready to go to a neighbour’s wedding, when we realised we needed a different plug from the tool hire company for the generator. They let us pick it up out of hours which was very good of them. People are helping each other out, which is nice to see – it’s been good for community relations!  

PF: Speaking to a lot of growers – we’ve never been in this position in Ireland before with the heat. We’re not really equipped to deal with it. Everyone is energetic with the sun, but the work is harder. Growers have lost full fields of carrots, of broccoli.

People need to buy Irish in this context –growers are under pressure. But also, this is climate change.  We wanted to take the train to this wedding but needed to go back to sort of the irrigation! We’ve gone from two storms, to snow in March, and now to this.

a version of this article first appeared in the Irish Examiner farming supplement.

See below for some tweets from Beechlawn’s twitter account

Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 189 Articles
DR. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activité professionnelle. Il peut néanmoins admirer par la fenêtre de son bureau les mésanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchés au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cÅ“ur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisés, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant à la communauté. Les jours où il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant également des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne également des cours sur le Master en coopératives, agroalimentaire et développement durable à l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majorité de son temps de travail à l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date à laquelle l’Irlande a assuré la présidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est là qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce à sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommé rédacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des médias sociaux, aide à définir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois même rédige un article pour le site web.  À l’époque où on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, où il a aidé des ONG irlandaises de commerce équitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – à raconter leur histoire.  Il se peut que ces jours-là reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de préférer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilités de bénévolat dans la communauté dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.