Teagasc Sustainability Report: Where does tillage stand?

Teagasc released its National Farm Survey Sustainability Report for 2019 yesterday (Tuesday, November 4), outlining the economic and environmental sustainability of four sectors: dairy; cattle; sheep; and tillage.

Yesterday we outlined where dairy and cattle farms stand in relation to sustainability. But what’s the story with tillage?

Starting with the economic side, the average gross margin on tillage farms in 2019 was €921/ha, an increase from €904 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the value of the productivity per labour unit on tillage farms last year was €36,410, down notably from €43,600 in 2018.

In 2019, 59% of tillage farms were noted as being viable, down slightly from the 2018 figure of 62%.

In terms of household vulnerability (which takes account of whether or not a non-farming income is coming into the household), 18% of tillage farming households were said to be vulnerable in 2019, the same figure as for 2018.

Last year, 31% of tillage farmers were noted to have been in a high age profile, down slightly from 34% in 2018, while 18% of tillage farms were located in isolated areas, up slightly from 16% in 2018.

Environmental sustainability

When the focus turns to environmental sustainability, you see that the average carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) for tillage farms in 2019 came out to 2.1t CO2 eq/ha, a slight decrease on the figure for 2018, which was 2.2t CO2 eq/ha.

When CO2 eq emissions are looked at in terms of value of output, 1.6kg CO2 eq was produced on tillage farms for every euro of output. This is small increase on the 1.5t CO2 eq per euro of output in 2018.

For ammonia, 8.5kg/ha on average was produced in 2019, compared to 8.8kg/ha in 2018.

As of last year, the nitrogen (N) balance on tillage farms was 50kg/ha, down from 62kg/ha in 2018.

The corresponding figure for phosphorous (P) balance was 7.2kg/ha in 2019, compared to 9.6kg/ha in 2019.

However, it may be worth noting that the sustainability report found that, of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on tillage farms, over 79% was produced by cattle on those farms, while over 9% were produced by sheep.