I was at the annual Irish Tillage and Land Use Society (ITLUS) winter conference, and while my ability to assimilate PowerPoint information is dodgy, I did manage to grab a few soundbites from some of the speakers.

What follows is a sketchy and probably dubious interpretation of what the speakers said.

So, we’ll kick off with the nature bit first.


Surprisingly, increasing your trimmed hedges by both a metre in height and width will double the amount of carbon that is sequestered (stored to you and me). The birdies and creepy crawlies will also love you for it.

Now, this is all very fine but there’s a problem with this approach.

If my neighbours and the tillage farmers of Ireland follow this advice, I won’t be able to see into their fields from the Hilux.

They could be doing or using stuff I need to know about in order to report to you here.

There are a couple of solutions open to me:

  • A) increase the seat height in the Hilux or
  • B) ditch the Hilux and buy a Unimog, which will lift my arse up by a good metre.
  • I’m exploring both these options.

    We were told under climate change that the winters will become warmer and wetter and the summers drier. As you know, I don’t lose any sleep over climate change and will sell my soul to any cause or belief that promises drier summers.

    Now, I may be a bit confused here because the big lunch did indeed make me very sleepy, but I think John Kealy from Avonmore/Glanbia/ Tirlán/Y/Z may have mentioned something about growing gluten-free rice, which should be ideal in our paddy fields.

    But don’t quote me on this – I may have been dreaming. I was. It was unexciting oats he was on about.


    Operation Transformation’s Eddie Murphy warned us that loneliness is so damaging to our mental health, it’s the same as smoking 10 Major every day. Either will shorten your life by three years.

    It’s so important to talk and have the craic wherever you find it. This may be in the mart or Mortimer Machinery or Bruno McCormack’s, or wherever it is for you.

    We must keep talking if we’re mentally slipping, and do visit your GP or psychiatrist if you are not in a good place. It could save your life. It did mine.

    Tillage farmer Andrew Bergin spoke about biological/regenerative farming, which seems to be a halfway house between organic and conventional farming.

    Personally, I’m not excited by it as A) I can’t see what’s wrong with conventional farming, and B) I have an addiction to glyphosate and now there’s a 10-year legalised fix ahead, which is the best news of 2023.

    Gene editing

    But Ewen Mullins was the star of the show. He spoke for about 10 minutes, which was ideal as that’s exactly my attention span, and gave clear insight in the benefits of gene editing.

    It’s very different to genetic modification, where you could take genes from a pair of coconuts and stick them into brussels sprouts so that they grow on trees in north Co Dublin and high out of the muck.

    While this has obvious advantages, for some reason, the public don’t like it.

    However, gene editing only allows the transfer of genes within the same plant species.

    For example, you could beneficially combine the disease resistance from one wheat variety with the high-yield trait of another wheat variety, and speedily.

    Less pesticides would be needed as a result. Bring it on, I say to Dr Mullins and dithering Brussels.

    Finally, I need to sell more copies of my new book Till. UNICEF gets €2 from every copy towards their great work with children in Gaza.

    I’ve donated €1,000 already, but I’d like to double that. It’s just €15 at antoniasbookstore.com while stocks last.