5 key moments in the tillage sector in 2018

2018 was a year that will last in the memory of many farmers. It was a particularly strange one for the tillage sector.

A very wet start, followed by a dry summer, led to reduced yields, a shortage of straw and, on a positive note, ideal winter planting conditions.

Here’s a reminder of some of the major events in the tillage sector in 2018.

Wet start

Farmers were on the back foot from the beginning of 2018. The area sown to winter crops was back significantly. Winter wheat area dropped by 11% (from 60,300ha); winter barley dropped by 13% (from 65,000ha); and winter oats area dropped by 30% (from 14,400ha).

Rain made the 2017 harvest and winter planting campaign difficult. Straw was being baled in February 2018, from the 2017 harvest.

A lot of spring crops needed to be planted, but weather didn’t allow it and it wasn’t until mid-April that sowing really began and it was in full swing by the end of April. Soon after, a drought followed and spring crops struggled.


Yield was back massively this year. The global drop in yield allowed for prices to rise and farmers were somewhat compensated for the yield drop.

Teagasc estimates that average net margins are up on cereal farms for 2018. However, a report by Teagasc showed a decrease in gross margins for spring barley and an increase for winter wheat.

Straw yield was back significantly on spring crops. This – in turn – drove prices up. In mid-August, AgriLand reported that straw (4X4) was walking out of fields for €30/bale and many were paying more than this price.

However, a pole in that same week showed that 13% of farmers were still paying less than €20/bale – showing that many regular customers were paying a reasonable price.

Straw was in such demand that 4X4 bales of pea stalks were selling for €25/bale.

Fodder Production Incentive Measure

1,701 tillage farmers applied to the Fodder Production Incentive Measure, which was introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in August.

Under the scheme, tillage farmers could apply for a financial incentive to grow fodder crops for livestock farmers to lessen the winter fodder deficit on livestock farms.

A total of 19,400ha were sown under the measure – 6,000ha of temporary grasses and 13,400ha of brassica crops.

Co. Wexford was an area affected badly by the summer’s drought and the uptake of the scheme reflected this as the county had the highest number of applicants.

Payments for brassica crops were supposed to begin by the end of the year.


While yields were back dramatically at harvest this year, price was significantly improved. Many merchants paid a base price of €200/t for feed barley, while wheat was slightly lower in some cases.

The increase in price helped, in some way, to make up for poor grain yield.

Beet on the way back

On November 7, Beet Ireland held the first of a series of meetings with potential beet growers having been planning the industry’s revival since 2011.

1,000 growers were asked to invest €1,000 to subscribe to a growers’ co-op. If the €1 million is raised, the co-op will then form a new company with Beet Ireland and the planning process will begin. Beet Ireland’s investment at this stage is the site – valued at €1 million.

AgriLand kept readers well informed with updates on progress and will continue to do so in 2019. All going to plan, the factory is expected to be built by 2022.

Also Read: Interview: Details on beet industry revival – ‘a rare opportunity’