This year marks 50 years of the work and existence of the Irish Tillage and Land Use Society, generally known as ITLUS. The society celebrated this fact earlier in the year, having held and event in June which looked back over its many achievements during that period. During the year the previous president, Hugh McDonnell had grown a selection of varieties that were grown by farmers during that time period, and even longer, and these were all viewed during that visit in June.

That event was about looking back over that period and the history of the society was documented in a book produced specifically for the occasion, with special thanks to the FBD Trust for supporting it. That event also enabled the coming together of most of the presidents who had served and steered the society during that period and these were honoured at a special gathering that evening.

ITLUS is a unique institution which pulls together the various separate strands of the industry to discuss issues which those involved need to be knowledgeable about.

That was one of two events which were planned to mark the half century of service to the tillage sector. The second special event will take place later this week and this conference will look forward towards the many changes we may see in the decades ahead.

The presidents view

The current ITLUS president is Michael Phelan from Red Mills in Kilkenny. I spoke with Michael last week and asked him for his opinions on the society and its usefulness within the tillage sector. He explained: “ITLUS is a unique institution which pulls together the various separate strands of the industry to discuss issues which those involved need to be knowledgeable about. It has the unique ability to be one with academia, research institutions, merchants, chemical companies, the seed trade and growers. It provides ongoing opportunities for thinking people to discuss and debate matters of interest.

At the ITLUS event in July were Finbarr Murphy who spoke on crops varieties over the past half century, Tom Breen, Tom Curran and Winston Ashmore.

“The society has done that since its inception in 1969 and it continues to do so 50 years later. Marking the occasion of its 50-year anniversary, the council of ITLUS has put together a special conference which extends over a day and a half under the theme ‘Visions for the Future’. This conference aims to look beyond next year and the year after and into the decades ahead.

“The conference agenda is set to target the many strands which form the ethos of the society. To help set a marker for the next 50 years, the society has pulled together a panel of high-profile speakers to give their views on a range of sub-themes and topics of interest to tillage farmers and to rural Ireland. I feel that the line up of speakers and topics makes this a must-attend conference for anyone who sees themselves in tillage crop production into the future”, Michael concluded.

Conference agenda

The ‘Visions for the Future’ conference will take place in the Clanard Court Hotel in Athy on the afternoon of Wednesday 4 December and Thursday 5 December. Following registration at 3pm on Wednesday there will be talks from economist Colm McCarthy on the state of rural Ireland, Cara Augustenborg from UCD will give her perspective of environmental issues and pressures and Professor Gerry Boyle of Teagasc will address "the tillage sector in Irish agriculture".

Michael Moroney gave an outline of the main machinery developments that occurred over the past 50 years on the farm of host farmer, John Brophy.

On Thursday at 10am Andy Doyle will discuss the contribution of 50 years of ITLUS and beyond. That will be followed by a keynote address by Bill Callanan from the Department of Agriculture entitled "tillage in Ireland as we head towards 2050". The remainder of the morning session will hear Ed Flatman from Limagrain plant breeders discuss "new technologies in cereal breeding and how they will affect crop production in the medium to long term" and Louise Brinkworth from Corteva Agriscience will talk about "new tools and approaches for crop protection".

Technologies evolving

The afternoon of the Thursday will focus on the many technologies evolving around mechanisation. Ewan McFarlane from Origin Enterprises will talk about ‘how data and digital agriculture is changing tillage farming’ around the world and after that Darragh Mullin from Case New Holland will talk about ‘trends in agricultural mechanisation from a manufacturer’s perspective’. This session will then be pulled together by a presentation from Professor Kevin McDonnell of UCD as he talks about "the future direction of Irish tillage mechanisation".

All in all, this promises to be an illuminating event as speakers look towards the future in the face of policy developments, trends and pressures that are already evident within society and agriculture today.