Tillage conference: What’s on tillage farmers’ minds?

At the Teagasc National Tillage Conference event today, January 29, farmers completed a survey and it provided some interesting answers.

The audience outlined the loss of pesticides as one of the biggest challenges facing the sector. 91% listed this as their top challenge.

Connecting to the loss of pesticides, 62% of participants outlined grass weed control as one of the main reasons for not moving to reduced tillage.

77% of participants in the survey saw cover crops as the way to protect soils in continuous tillage.

72% of people who took the survey stated that they see food-grade oats and cereal crops for malting as the biggest opportunities in the sector’s future.

The full results of the survey are below.

What are the main challenges facing the tillage sector (participants could choose a maximum of three answers)?
  • Loss of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides – 91%;
  • Lack of more resilient varieties – 47%;
  • Current production unsustainable from a soils perspective – 42%;
  • Dairy expansion – 41%;
  • Labour shortage and cost – 23%.

How can we protect our soils in continuous tillage (participants could choose a maximum of three answers)?
  • Use cover crops to improve soil quality – 77%;
  • Reduce machinery impact with larger tyres, lower pressure and improved headland management – 65%;
  • Avoid working in wet or vulnerable soil conditions – 60%;
  • Use reduced cultivations to build more resilient soils – 37%;
  • Bring grass leys back into rotations – 17%;
  • Adopt direct-drilling – 15%.

What currently restricts you from adopting non-plough tillage methods (participants could choose a maximum of three answers)?
  • Grass weed control is challenging – 62%;
  • Riskier establishment requiring early autumn sowing – 53%;
  • Perceived negative impact on yields – 30%;
  • Expensive to change over – 22%;
  • Less suitable for spring crops – 20%;
  • Insufficient research in our conditions – 20%;
  • Not suitable for our climate – 19%.

What will be the main opportunities for crop producers in the future (participants could choose a maximum of three answers)?
  • Grow higher value crops for specific markets: food oats, specific varieties for beer/spirits – 72%;
  • Utilise organic manures from intensive grassland – 60%;
  • Grow more food/protein crops to feed demand for a plant-based diet – 50%;
  • Grow energy crops or crops for anaerobic digestion – 42%;
  • Grow current crops, but with more regulated production methods and traceability bringing a higher return – 27%;
  • Plant forestry to maximise carbon capture – 11%.