An ambitious plan has been launched to double the production of indigenous protein crops in Ireland by 2030.

The Irish Protein Stakeholders Group – convened by Teagasc – produced and published the strategic plan, which supports he growing of native protein crops, which would see farmers produce 130,000t of indigenous protein crops from 20,000ha by 2030.

The plan was launched this week by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

The minister commended the plan and the targets within, which, he said, are aligned with his department’s proposed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan to double the area grown to protein crops to 20,000ha.

The group, which has representatives from the agricultural industry, farmers, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) outlined three key strategies to achieve their goal:

  • Farmer profitability
    Improving farm profitability from protein crops versus other crops through variety improvement, better agronomic practices and bridging knowledge gaps;
  • Creating demand
    Create a positive market environment for indigenous protein crops by establishing their nutritional credentials and demonstrating to livestock producers the advantages of substituting imported proteins;
  • Sustainability
    Create a greater recognition of the sustainability credentials of native grown protein crops to achieve climate change and biodiversity targets by the displacement of imported protein sources.

The stakeholders group intend to launch an initiative called Benchmarking Beans for Yield Improvement next spring.

The aim of this initiative is to determine the key agronomic practices used to achieve the highest yielding crops and to use these crops as a benchmark for other farmers, for overall yield improvement.

Long-term viability of indigenous protein crops

Minister McConalogue said he believes in the long-term viability of the tillage sector and is convinced there is massive untapped potential within it.

“I am committed to supporting the growing of indigenous protein crops through the next CAP with a proposed increase in funding for the coupled voluntary protein aid scheme from the current €3 million per annum to €7 million per annum.

“Growing the area under protein crops is a win-win for our industry; it offers a support for tillage farmers and can play a huge role in reducing our dependence on imported crops.”

He also highlighted the benefits of increasing native production of protein crops from climate change, environmental and biodiversity viewpoints, which will “greatly contribute to Ireland’s sustainability credentials”.

He also outlined the advantages of protein crops from an economic viewpoint to the tillage farmer.

Michael Hennessy, head of Crop Knowledge Transfer department in Teagasc said:

“Irish tillage farmers have responded to the challenges of producing more Irish-grown protein crops and will continue to rise to the challenge. The animal-feed market will be the largest customer of protein grains, however developing higher value food market is a priority to add value to protein grains and farmers’ incomes.”

Group member Liam Leahy from Dairygold said:

“As a company, we would be delighted to see the protein-crop area increasing into the future where we can comfortably use up the four times our current supply as we find them an ideal crop to work with both with tillage and livestock farmers.”

Irish Protein Stakeholders Group strategic plan is available here