Barley accounts for 57% of all tillage crops planted in Ireland

Barley accounts for over half (57%) of all tillage crops planted in Ireland, followed by wheat (19%) and oats (7%).

The finding was published in a report by Tillage Industry Ireland this week – an Economic Impact Assessment of the Tillage Sector in Ireland.

The study was prepared by Prof. Michael Wallace of University College Dublin (UCD).

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Using average planted-area figures from 2104 to 2018, the report outlined that the main break crops – oilseeds, pulses, and potatoes – each comprised 3% of the tillage area, while fodder crops (maize, arable silage and beet) accounted for 8% of the tillage area. This can be seen in this info-graphic (below).

Source: Tillage Industry Ireland / CSO crop production statistics

Changes in the national crop mix, between 1985 and 2018, are highlighted in this further info-graphic (below). The relative shares of barley, wheat and oats have remained broadly consistent over this period.

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Areas of oilseeds and pulses have increased, while the area of potatoes has declined. There has also been a notable reduction in the area of tillage fodder crops over the last decade.

Source: Tillage Industry Ireland / CSO crop production statistics

Spring versus winter sowing

The report also revealed that there has been a sharp decline in spring-sown cereals (wheat, barley and oats), as can be seen in this info-graphic (below).

The area of spring cereals declined sharply in the 1980s. It then stabilised during the 1990s and early 2000s. It dipped again in the mid‐2010s.

Source: Tillage Industry Ireland / CSO crop production statistics

Improved average yields

The report also contains data pertaining to average yields – on a year-to-year basis (for winter wheat and spring barley). This info-graphic (below), while showing fluctuations associated with the variability in weather conditions, highlights that average yields have improved reasonably consistently.

Source: Tillage Industry Ireland / CSO crop production statistics / Teagasc

From 1985 to 2018, linear growth in average yields for winter wheat was 81kg/ha/year. For spring barley, the corresponding figure was 63kg/ha/year.