Recent weeks have seen a focus placed on the potential to develop careers for lots of young people within Ireland’s tillage sector.
But, in truth, this has always been the case. So, in many ways, the question becomes – why have our colleges and universities placed so little emphasis on tillage as a subject area within the courses they offer over recent years?
I regularly speak to agricultural students from all parts of the country, who tell me two things.
First off, they never thought of crops as a subject area of note for them. But, secondly, they were never really encouraged by those involved in offering the courses they followed to really look at tillage as a career driver.
The first point I get; most students today come from either a dairy or beef background. There is also a perception abroad that milk is a trendy area to get involved in, with all other aspects of production agriculture coming well down the pecking order.
The second point is more perplexing, in my opinion. I have always held the view that those involved with our agricultural colleges have nightmares at the very thought of young people being let loose on high-powered tractors with the likes of ploughs, harrows, fertiliser spreaders and sprayers in tow.
Oh the expense of it all.
Careers in tillage
Meanwhile, the Irish government envisages the area of crops grown in the country to increase from the current figure of 300,000ha up to 400,000ha within the next few years.
So, set in this context alone, the prospect to develop careers within the tillage sector is immense.
At a very fundamental level, Irish farmers will need access to state-of-the-art advice as they commit to increasing the area of crops they grow.
Establishing a centre of tillage excellence is one way, I believe, of both galvanising interest in young people, where crops are concerned, while also ensuring that the additional agronomists – which the country will need – are actually trained.
In many ways, crop production represents the purest of all the agricultural sciences.
While tillage is not the largest of the farming sectors in Ireland, the polar opposite is the case in so many countries around the world.
Moreover, the scientific principles associated with crop production are the same wherever arable farming is practised.
So, even in the here and now, trained agronomists can leave Ireland and find gainful employment anywhere else in the world.
So is there a future within tillage for young people in this country? Of course there is.