Ploughing should be an Olympic sport

It is my strongly held belief that ploughing should be included in future Olympic Games’ schedules. I am not being biased, but Ireland would be a shoe-in to win lots of medals.

These thoughts come to mind on the back of Ireland’s tremendous success at the recent World Ploughing Championships in Kenya.

Congratulations to all the Irish ploughmen who competed. They did their country proud.

Dreams of participation in future Olympic Games might be stretching it a little bit. But what should not be overlooked is the role of ploughing in helping to deliver an agricultural  revolution.

Without the plough, it’s hard to imagine how the current crop management practices, that have helped feed the world, would have come about.

The ability to turn the sod effectively allowed mankind to convert from a hunter-gatherer existence to that of a settled society; safe in the knowledge that it could grow sufficient food to meet its own needs – and more.

I would argue that the evolution of effective ploughing provided our ancestors with the opportunity to spend less time worrying about where their next meal was coming from and, as a consequence, gain greater opportunities to think about life’s bigger picture.

I know that recent years have brought a greater focus on the use of ‘min-till’ crop establishment practices.

But even these ‘conservation-friendly’ techniques come with a downside – a greater reliance on agrochemicals being one of them.

Downside of min-till

Agronomists will also admit that a strong reliance on min-till has given ubiquitous weeds, such as Blackgrass, the opportunity to gain such a strong foothold in so many of Europe’s tillage areas.

The real answer to the problem, of course, is to plough-up the affected land and, in so doing, bury the weeds in question and their seed to depths that will prevent future germination becoming a management issue.

So much for the big picture; a core dimension to the ploughing scene in Ireland is the role it plays in bringing so many rural communities together.

A day-out at the local ploughing match remains a right-of-passage for so many people the length and breadth of the country.

Thing of beauty

Ploughing also brings home the fact that we have to work with nature, not against it. It is also a unique art form.

A well ploughed field is a thing of true beauty, reflecting the practitioner’s ability to work in true harmony with horses, or ‘horse power’, in ways that create real value for society as a whole.