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Damp conditions delay grain harvest, predict seed shortage

MTK, Finland's leading advocacy group for farmers and forest owners, has warned that this year's poor crop yield might put next year's grain seed supply in jeopardy. Wet conditions have kept harvesters from the fields, and there is a growing risk that winter frosts will kill off cereals that don't ripen in time.

Peitattuja siemenkaura säkkejä.
Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

Finland's federation of agricultural and forest producers, MTK, says that this year's grain harvest is over a month late, putting both this year's yield and next year's seed supply at risk.

"Harvesting has been delayed and there's been a lot of rain. If farmers go ahead and harvest the wet crop, the germination of the seeds suffers," says MTK's Mika Virtanen.

Farm saved seed ratios at risk

Each year farmers in Finland sow their fields with 70 percent of their own seeds, buying the rest. MTK warns its members to make sure they reserve a high-quality stock of their own seed grain for next spring.

"It is best to order more certified seed in time, if it looks like your own seed supply won't be sufficient. If there's a lot of demand, there may not be enough to go around," Virtanen says.

The grain harvest is ripening one month behind the normal schedule in Finland this autumn, and farmers expect to be out on the fields well into October, if the weather allows.

Wet conditions mean that many cereals that have already been harvested show high concentrations of mould and pre-harvest sprouting, which results in lower yields due to poor grain quality.

Third year of diminishing yields

The Finnish Centre for National Resources has estimated that Finland's grain harvest will come in at no more than about 3.5 billion kilos this year, marking the third consecutive year of decline.

MTK says it is still too early to predict exactly how much the less-than-average yields will affect the seed supply. The harvest in central and northern parts of the country will in any case show a poor yield, in many cases not leaving enough to fulfil the coming year's seed requirements. 

"The situation is close to catastrophic for many farms. Oil-producing plants in the south won't be harvested at all because they won't ripen in time," says Virtanen.

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