Poots flies the banner of local agriculture
The attractiveness of this year’s exhibition was enhanced by the wonderful weather – of course, in the first two days. The importance of agriculture and nutrition for the economy is significant Northern Ireland has been widely profiled in Ratheniska this year.
Just under 100 local exhibitors took part in the event, while the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) pavilion was located in the center of the site, adjacent to the National Plowing Association of Ireland headquarters complex.
What’s more, there were plenty of Ulster accents to be heard throughout the three days of the event. All of this reflects the fact that agriculture and food processing are now truly island-wide industries.
Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots was very visible at this year’s championship. In two days, he visited many companies and organizations from Northern Ireland.
On the first day of the event, he commented: “It was my first time attending the championships and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the scale of the event. In fact, this is a plowing competition, which is truly and rightfully recognized as a major competition on the international map, attracting world-class plowmen. I wish all the competitors, especially those from Northern Ireland, the very best.
“The event is certainly very beneficial for businesses and visitors to Northern Ireland.
“Walking around and meeting people, particularly the participants and competitors from Northern Ireland, one can clearly see and hear the benefits of trading and showcasing the best of NI businesses, agricultural produce and our great food products to a wide and diverse audience.
“The event provides a unique opportunity to promote Northern Ireland’s agri-food and rural sectors to a wide audience from across Ireland and beyond. Local food products from Northern Ireland will also be on display at the DAERA stand.’
The Minister continued: “We intend to continue to build Northern Ireland’s reputation for excellence. In October 2021 I helped launch FoodNI’s Our Food, Power for Good campaign to promote the benefit of our local industry, quality produce and our sustainability in terms of the production and reputation of locally farmed food in NI. My department will also continue to explore new market opportunities in partnership with others.
“I am also very pleased that CAFRE is back at the Plowing Championships. My department has a strong commitment to developing the knowledge and skills of the local agri-food industry – both for those entering the industry and those who are well established and looking to develop further. I firmly believe that the level of education is linked to the economic success of our industry.”
One of the most important issues that came to the fore in Ratheniska this week was the possibility of increasing the agricultural footprint on the island of Ireland in the coming years.
This commitment was specifically made by members of the Irish Grain Growers Group (IGG).
Pat Cleary, a member of the organisation’s committee, confirmed that farmers in Ireland had had a good year.
After a very good crop, cereal prices look set to remain stable,” he said, adding: “But growers have been operating with the specter of volatility haunting them throughout the 2022 growing season.
“And it looks like this threat will become even more significant in 2023. No one knows how Vladimir Putin will react in the coming months.
“Today, the fertilizer market is absolutely unpredictable. Buyers are now happy to quote prices for canola, but not for grain.”
The representative of the IGG believes that there are significant opportunities for expanding the area of agriculture.
In parallel with this, there will be a higher level of cooperation between farmers and livestock breeders.
Pat Cleary further explained: “But the grain sector needs additional government support. And it has to happen now.”
The main thrust of the commentary provided by Cleary was that ranchers need to understand the quality of home-grown grain compared to imported grain.
He explained: “All grain grown in Ireland is produced to a Farm Guaranteed Quality standard. This cannot be said about imports.”
Cleary was a member of a discussion group that was convened to discuss ways to increase the level of cooperation between the tillage and livestock sectors.
Looking ahead, he said tillage farmers must continue to add value to the grains they produce, adding: “Canola and beans need to be seen in that context. Their intense flowering meets many requirements in terms of biodiversity. They are also huge crops in every crop rotation.”
One of the proposed developments discussed by members of the IGG discussion group was the need for Ireland to have its own rapeseed crushing plant.
This year, the area of oilseed rape in Ireland will exceed 20,000 hectares. This represents a doubling of the sector’s size over the past five years.
Rapeseed seed cake has a very high protein content and will be in high demand in animal husbandry.
Representatives from 25 countries took part in the World Plowing Championships this week in Ratheniska. Initially, this event was planned in Ukraine. But recent events in that country have forced a re-examination of the issue, with Ireland stepping up at the last minute to secure an alternative venue.
Many of the competitors taking part in this week’s World Plowing Championships run very large tillage farms.
They openly admit that when it comes to their commercial operations, methods such as minimum payment and zero till now have the upper hand.
But plowing is in their blood.
“It’s a tradition,” confirmed Peter Alderslade.
“The Sunderland man competed for England this week in the World Reversal.
“We grow a mixture of winter wheat, barley, rapeseed, rye and spring beans at home.
“When it comes to harvesting, we use minimal and zero aggregate options.
“But that doesn’t change the fact that plowing remains a fundamental farming skill.”
Stuart Bunting hails from Norfolk in the east of England. He was in Ireland this week as a referee and coach of the English team.
He commented: “In the UK we have moved away from the family farm model. This is when young people sat on the tractor for 12 and 15 hours. This gives them very little time to practice their competitive plowing skills.
“We need to find ways to encourage more young people, both men and women, to play sports.”
Both men have been in Ireland for the past week preparing for the World Plow Championships.
“The venue is in excellent condition and should provide a fair test to all competitors,” he stressed.
“On the final day of the competition, heavy rain is forecast. But if he gets a chance to seep in, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for those competing.”
President of the National Plowing Association of Ireland, James Sutton, was confident the event would be a huge success.
“Ireland was more than happy to host the 2022 World Cup, given what happened in Ukraine.
“Rateniska is an ideal place for an event. The land is perfectly suited for competitive plowing of the highest level.
“Adding to the appeal is that the lots are in perfect condition. They will ensure a perfect test for everyone involved.
“The plow is at the heart of Irish agriculture. This week’s events at Ratheniska represent the perfect showcase for everyone involved in the sport.”
It was very encouraging to see the number of young people who took part in the plowing this week. A large number of people also gathered to watch the horse plowing events at Ratheniska. Again, it was nice to see.
And for those who love sports, the good news is that another competitive season is about to begin.
Plowing lies at the heart of all that is good about Northern Ireland agriculture. Turning the sod has all the symbolism associated with a new beginning and preparation for a better, brighter future.
The craftsmanship of the local plowmen is known around the world, and a host of events planned for the coming months will give local enthusiasts another chance to prove just how good they are.
The recent dry weather should help to ensure that the plowing conditions on the site are as good as possible. And with harvest just finished in all areas, competitors should have no shortage of great spots.
To tell the truth, every plowing – local and national – is one of the main moments of the year in agriculture. Each one combines a combination of intense competition, good-natured banter and a unique atmosphere that allows participants and spectators to truly immerse themselves in a village tradition that dates back thousands of years.
But when all is said and done, competitive plowing is a sport. And an integral part of this is the desire of those who take part to practice and improve their skills over many years.
What’s more, Northern Ireland has a track record for plowing that would be the envy of most other countries. The activity offers a unique combination of competition and camaraderie that is hard to find in any other pastime or hobby.
Internationally, the province has a track record to be proud of. And, as a result, young people who want to take up this sport will have every opportunity to prove themselves both at home and abroad.
I have often said that if rowing were recognized as an Olympic sport, competitors from this part of the world would return home time after time with sacks full of medals.
But the rally is as much a sociable holiday as it is a cauldron of sporting and commercial activity.
It gives people a chance to meet and greet friends they may only see once a year at this very event. And the horse plow never needs to be revised. It gives a flashback to how things were in the good old days: the bad old days.
And for those not interested in plowing as such, the chance to see a horse in full gear is an opportunity never to be missed.
So, let’s hope for good weather and ground conditions in the coming weeks, which will give all plowing participants the opportunity to show their skills in the most effective way. May the best man – and woman – win every time!
https://www.farminglife.com/country-and-farming/poots-flies-the-flag-forlocal-agriculture-3855006 Poots flies the banner of local agriculture