There has been a 17% rise in the number of students applying to study third-level degrees in agriculture or horticulture in 2017, figures show.

A total of 532 students put a course in agriculture or horticulture as their first preference on their application to the Central Applications Office (CAO) this year, compared to just 495 students in 2016.

The increase in the popularity of these courses in 2017 follows a sharp fall of close to 24% in the previous year, figures show.

In 2017, agriculture and horticulture courses received a total of 2,355 mentions in the total number of CAO applications, an increase of 365 on last year.

This represented an increase of 18%.

Increases were also witnessed with regards to courses in veterinary medicine. These courses received 854 mentions in the total number of CAO applications, which represented just a slight increase of 2.4% on last year’s figures.

However, 52 more applicants this year placed veterinary medicine courses as their first preference, a jump of just over 9%, the latest CAO figures show.

A total of 76,086 students applied to the CAO in 2017, which remains on par with the high levels of applicants witnessed in 2016.

The deadline for applications to the CAO originally closed on February 1, but the CAO system reopened again on February 5 for people who wanted to amend their applications. In those case, a €10 fee applied.

This opportunity to amend applications closed at the beginning of this month. But students still wishing to apply will be allowed to submit a late application, once it is completed before May 1.

Anyone who wishes to submit a late application to the CAO online will be charged €50, while paper-based applications will cost €80.

All applicants will be offered the chance to ‘alter’ their course choices between May 5 and July 1; these minor alterations will be free of charge.