Tillage Farming


Growth of crops

Over 300,000 hectares of agricultural land in Ireland is engaged in tillage farming, or the annual production of crops for harvest. Tillage crops in Ireland have traditionally been primarily based around the provision of feedstuffs to the livestock sector and feedstock to industries such as malting, milling, sugar, breakfast cereal, distilling and food. Cereal crops are the main output, led by barley, then wheat and then oats. Interest in other crops have also increased in recent years due to favourable market conditions e.g. oilseed rape.


Other crops

Apart from the cereal crops, Irish farmers grow maize, beans, peas, oilseed rape, beet and potatoes. Potato growing in particular has become very intensive in certain parts of the country. The crop requires exceptionally good land and is now confined to parts of Meath, Louth, Dublin, Wexford, Donegal and Cork. Donegal has a noted tradition of growing potatoes for the seed trade, while Dublin and Meath growers supply the table market in Dublin, as well as the crisp making industry.


Maize in Ireland is mainly grown as a forage crop that is harvested and ensiled for winter feeding to livestock. It requires warm south facing fields. A significant proportion of maize production is confined to the south-east of the country due to favourable climatic conditions e.g. County Cork. The crop is also grown successfully in County Meath, driven by the high prevalence of intensive dairy and beef herds.

Sugar production

Sugar beet was a very popular crop in Ireland from the establishment of Comhlacht Siuicre Eireann (CSE), which was formed when the State took over the Irish Sugar Manufacturing Company’s Carlow factory in 1933.

In 1933-1934, sugar beet processing factories were built in Mallow, Thurles and Tuam. The number of sugar beet growers quickly reached 27,000 by 1936 and peaked at 50,141 in 1943. The company was a huge force in rural Ireland, diversifying through Erin Foods into vegetables.

CSE was limited by a sugar quota after Ireland joined the European Union and the company was privatised as Greencore in 1990. As part of a European restructuring policy, Greencore closed the last remaining sugar beet factory in Mallow in 2006.


previousPrevious - Sheep Farming
Next - Pig & Poultry Productionnext