The area under tillage crops, fodder crops and large-scale vegetable production increased by 1.9% in 2021, according to the provisional figures from BPS applications.

The area under all these crops amounts to 338,893ha and it follows a 1% increase last year.

This figure includes all the main cereals – oilseeds, potatoes, fodder crops, protein crops, beetroot, turnips and kale – as well as crops such as carrots, parsnips and onions, and fallow. It excludes most horticultural crops, wild bird cover and all grassland.

In 2019, the area sown to the main tillage crops was 7.13% of the total claim. In 2020, this percentage increased to 7.19%

The area sown to these crops has also increased relative to the total land area claimed in recent years.

In 2019, the area sown to the main tillage crops was 7.13% of the total claim. In 2020, this percentage increased to 7.19% and it looks to be up to 7.297% in 2021.

All cereals

The Department of Agriculture figures for 2020 for all cereals indicated that the area was up 5.49% relative to 2019 at 265,739ha.

This equivalent area in the preliminary 2021 numbers is up again, at 275,592ha.

This 9,835ha rise in total cereal crop area represents a 3.71% increase. The area changes for 2019, 2020 and 2021 can be seen in Table 1.

The main changes see a reduction in the area planted to barley crops. The spring barley area is back almost 25,000ha but winter barley is up 16,087ha to 67,386ha.

These differences leave total barley area back 8,911ha at 183,624ha, but total barley production could still be broadly similar to last year, or higher, due to the high proportion of winter plantings and the dryness in 2020.

The overall area sown to wheat is up 15,123ha, due primarily to a big increase in winter plantings because of the better backend weather relative to autumn 2019.

Spring wheat area

At 6,054ha, the spring wheat area has held up reasonably well, despite the reduction relative to 2020. It seems possible that overall wheat production could be up by over 40% relative to last year.

Overall oat area is up 2,860ha on 2020, mainly as a result of higher winter area, despite a reduction in spring plantings.

This leaves the overall oat area in 2021 the highest it has been in the past three seasons.

The area sown to triticale is broadly similar to 2020, with spring plantings virtually the same, while winter plantings are back just under 33ha.

There has been a big interest in rye in recent years and a push by Seedtech last backend has resulted in the area of this crop increasing by 168% for 2021, to an area of 1,298ha.

While this is still not a very big area, it seems likely that it will see further increases in the years ahead, providing the crop continues to perform.

Other crops

The total area sown to oilseed rape, protein crops, maize, beet and potatoes is back by 5.43% relative to 2020, according to the provisional 2021 BPS figures.

Most crop areas remain broadly similar, with beans being the major mover. The areas for 2019 and 2020 are shown in Table 2, as well as the provisional figures for 2021.

Total bean area was up considerably in 2020 as a result of the general scarcity of spring cereal seed. This saw bean area rise to 12,843ha, with an increase in peas also.

These increases resulted in a reduction in the level of protein crop aid and this is one factor in the fall in area again this year.

Oilseed rape area is up slightly overall following an increase of over 1,300ha in winter crop plantings. But spring crop plantings are down to leave a net area increase of 868ha.

The area sown to pulses is back by 3,759ha in 2021 following the increases in 2020. The major drop was in bean area, with a drop in the area sown to peas also.

If these 2021 provisional areas remain as indicated, this would put the 2021 protein aid at €304/ha or €123/ac.

Maize area back slightly

Maize area is back slightly in 2021 as growers without customers pull back on their planted areas.

Overall beet area remains virtually the same, with a 96ha increase and a change in the makeup of the variety type. Beet remains one of the most profitable tillage crops for those who have a regular market for the crop.

The area sown to potatoes remains virtually the same overall, but there was a reduction in the areas sown for seed and a slight reduction in the area sown to earlies.

All crops

Combining these areas for agricultural crops gives a total of 329,126ha sown to cereals, oilseeds, roots, forage and pulses (Table 3). This number is 2.1% up on 2020, which was also higher than in 2019.

These areas indicate that the fall in overall tillage area experienced in recent years has stabilised and it is increasing again.

This may be partially to do with the improved price prospects for 2021, partially to do with improved confidence in tillage following its acknowledgement by the Government in recent years but also to a transfer of some beef land into tillage.

Whatever the reason, the increases are to be welcomed and are in the national interest.

In short

  • The total area sown to cereals in 2021 has increased by 9,853ha or 3.71% relative to 2020.
  • The overall area across all major agricultural crops increased by 6,778ha or 2.1% relative to 2020.
  • The area sown to agricultural crops plus field vegetable crops, other fodder crops and fallow, increased by 1.9% overall in 2021.