Tirlán Quality Grain Award Winners

20 February 2024
Agribusiness News

New Teagasc research on the Tirlán grain pool shows the carbon footprint is lower than many international grain growing regions

Champion food grade oats growers, John and Ann Deering and their son, Mark, have won the coveted overall Tirlán Quality Grain Award for 2023 and have been singled out for their exceptional attention to detail in growing top quality grains on the family farm. 

The Deering family, from Morette near Emo in County Laois, also won the individual Food Grade Oats award for harvest 2023. The champion growers were among 14 top suppliers commended at the highly-competitive Tirlán Quality Grain Awards for 2023 ceremony that took place today, Tuesday, February 20th 2024 in Portlaoise, Co. Laois.

New research from Teagasc on the Tirlán grain pool shows that Irish grain has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. The research unveiled at the awards is the first of its kind using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology specifically developed for Irish grain on a wide range of commercially-grown Irish cereals. Accounting for straw incorporation, the study showed the net carbon footprint could be close to net zero.

Addressing the Awards, Martin Heydon T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development, commended the award-winning growers on their dedication to delivering the highest quality grain, while also farming sustainably.

"I congratulate today's 14 champion growers on their quality produce and commend Tirlán for its continued investment in research and development at its Innovation Centre in Ballyragget which I've visited previously and at its high-spec Oat Mill here in Portlaoise. 

"In what was a difficult year for weather conditions, Tirlán's growers produced top quality grains on farms across this catchment, as showcased here today. They take immense pride in what they do, how they farm, how they nurture and respect the land. This dedication, passion and commitment to sustainability is what sets Irish grains apart, as evidenced by the research work unveiled here today. We continue to strive to find new markets and add value to this quality Irish produce."

John Murphy, Tirlán Chairperson, said it was one of the most challenging years in living memory for grains but commended Tirlán’s 1,100 plus growers on the resilience they’ve shown. “The commitment to quality and passion shown by the award winning growers, coupled with the sustainability credentials of the crops, bodes well for the future of Irish grain.   

“As the largest buyer and user of premium Irish grains, Tirlán is investing in the future of Irish grain. Tirlán paid our growers almost €3 million in additional bonuses last year, specifically for premium grains.  And in spite of the exceptionally challenging weather, we doubled our gluten-free oats intake last year.

“We’ve built strong capabilities in our Oat Mill in Portlaoise and in R&D with a view to maximising returns for our farm families. We continue to expand our plant-based offerings and we’re evolving our portfolio to meet growing global demand in key markets such as North America, Europe and Asia where demand for sustainably produced, fully traceable product made from quality Irish grains continues to grow. Our new Avonmore Oat Drinks are performing very well in Ireland and the Asian market, and we recently launched a new Truly Oat beverage range into the US market. 

“As plans for harvest 2024 continue, we remain committed to facilitating sustainable growth in the grain sector, in line with Government ambitions. Our grains team are out working with our valued growers, assessing and harnessing regenerative agriculture practices on farms and continuously improving the sustainability credentials of the premium portfolio.” 

Tirlán Quality Grain Awards Overall Winners John and Ann Deering farm with their son, Mark and grow a range of crops on the family farm. The main crop grown is cassia winter barley.  Break crops used on the farm are winter oilseed rape, spring beans, winter gluten-free oats and winter food grade oats. Winter wheat and contracted spring barley are also grown.

A delighted John Deering said: “We were honoured to come here today to receive the Food Grade Oats award. But to win the Overall Award for 2023 is a huge boost, particularly when last year was such a tough one for growers.”

Son, Mark Deering, added: “We focus on doing the little things well and are very thankful to our agronomist, Tim Scott, for his help throughout the year. It’s lovely to be recognised for the work we do as a family to produce a range of quality crops in a sustainable way. We’re thrilled to be going home with two wins. It makes the hard work very worthwhile and we will enjoy celebrating these wins.”

Crops on the Deering family farm are established mainly by min till and organic manures are used on some of the land. Attention to detail is a hallmark of their success in growing quality grains.  The winning crop had an average specific weight of 57.8 kph at 17.6% moisture across 214 tonnes and incidentally was a crop of gluten-free oats. The Deering family’s Tirlán agronomist is Tim Scott.

New research 

Tirlán, in conjunction with Teagasc, invested in developing a new LCA model which was used to complete Ireland’s first carbon footprint analysis of commercially-grown Irish cereals. Teagasc carried out the research and data collection for individual growers, with the assistance of the Tirlán agronomy team, using information from 48 Tirlán grain suppliers, covering 11,500ha of land in what was an above average year for yields in 2022. 

The study found the carbon footprint of Irish grain is very low compared to grains produced in other grain producing regions in Europe and North America.

The data showed the gross carbon footprint of Tirlán oats was low at 207 kg CO2 equivalent/t product, or 232 kg CO2 equivalent/t product, when adjusted to allow for drying. 

John Spink, Teagasc Head of Crops Environment and Land Use Programme, stated: “The recently developed Tillage LCA has been used to assess the carbon footprint of Oats from Tirlán suppliers. The gross carbon footprint was 207 kg CO2/t, or 232 kg CO2/t including drying, which is low by international standards. In warmer countries like Italy and Spain, the figure would be closer to 1000 kg CO2/t. When the carbon sequestered by straw incorporation was included in the calculations the figure dropped dramatically, giving an average net carbon footprint of 38 kg CO2/t, with a number of the crops at or below net zero.

“Irish growers generally have a very low carbon footprint and the results of this study support it. The most influential factors impacting the carbon footprint of the grain pool are good crop nutrition and high yields.”

Straw incorporation improves carbon sequestration and has become more popular with the support of the Department of Agriculture’s National Straw Incorporation Measure. 

John Kealy, Tirlán Head of Grains, said: “The results for Irish grain shown in the Life Cycle Analysis are a strong endorsement of the sector’s sustainability credentials and highlight the important role of Irish grains within the agricultural sector and along the value chain. Today’s Winner of the Sustainability Award, Mark Sheridan from Navan, Co. Meath, had three crops in the Top Five of the lowest carbon footprint results from the study. He adopted widespread use of straw incorporation and his Winter Oats were carbon neutral. It was an exceptional performance amid some really high standards and a sign of the quality of our Irish grain.” 

The 2023 winners are: 

Winter (Cassia) Feed Barley John and Ray Kavanagh Bert, Athy, Co. Kildare
Malting Barley R&R Farms Deerpark, Mogeely, Co. Cork
Green Feed Barley John Fenlon  Barraghcore, Goresbridge, Co. Kilkenny
Premium Spring Barley John Miller Burtown, Athy, Co. Kildare
Dried Feed Barley B&N Madden Kiltale, Dunsany, Co. Meath
Seed Barley Kathleen & James Maher  Ballyspellan, Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny
Green Feed Wheat David O’Dwyer  Heathpark, Newbawn, Co. Wexford
Dried Feed Wheat Michael Carey  Stonefield, Newcastle, Co Wicklow
Seed Wheat Ballingale Farms Ltd  Ballingale, Ferns, Co. Wexford
Food Grade Oats John Deering  Morette, Emo, Co. Laois
Green Feed Oats Grangenolvin Farm Partnership  Kilkea, Athy, Co. Kildare
Green Feed Beans NBCB Farms  Dunbell, Maddockstown, Co. Kilkenny
Green Oilseed Rape P. O’Connell Farms Ballintogher, Ballybrittas, Co. Laois
Sustainability Award J&C Sheridan Ltd Kilberry, Navan, Co. Meath
Overall Award  John, Ann and Mark Deering  Morette, Emo, Co. Laois