Crop area estimates provided by seed multiplier Goldcrop at the company’s open days last week suggest that national tillage area may have declined by 1.88% in 2024. That’s a decline of 6,591 hectares (ha).

That places the total area of cereals, oilseeds, protein crops, potatoes, maize and beet at 344,200ha in 2024, compared to 350,791ha in 2023.

Donal Fitzgerald, general manager of arable seeds at Goldcrop, told the Irish Farmers Journal that the figures signalled good news as the area was expected to decline by as much as 10% and these figures show a decline of less than 2%.

A number of factors are contributing to the decline - including demand for land from other sectors, weather and on-farm profits.

Tough autumn sowing campaign

“We knew that we were coming into a difficult autumn after a very wet summer last year that left a legacy. The difficult harvesting conditions that we had in 2023 caused problems with land, late harvest and seed availability. Then we had a tough autumn sowing campaign,” Donal said.

He added it became clear more crops were being planted than originally estimated and he placed winter wheat and barley area at about 80% of the 2023 area. However, he highlighted that these are the company’s own estimates and are not official figures.


According to those figures, cereal area is expected to take a big hit with a drop of 10,146ha outlined in the estimates for 2024. If these figures come to pass in official figures from the Department of Agriculture that means cereal area will be down approximately 25,300ha since 2022.

Winter area is taking the biggest hit here. Winter barley and winter wheat areas are estimated down over 10,000ha each this year. Overall oats area is estimated up in 2024 by close to 2,000ha.

Oilseeds, protein and potatoes

Oilseed rape area is estimated down in Goldcrop’s figures from 21,725ha in 2023 to 16,500ha in 2024. Weather and harvest workload did not suit many farmers for oilseed rape planting.

Protein area is estimated up in the figures. Spring bean area is up about 800ha, winter bean area is down about 100ha and pea area is up about 165ha. The protein/cereal mix area increased from 804ha in 2022 to 1,835ha in 2023 and an estimated 2,500ha in 2024.

Potato area is estimated to be up by over 7,00ha in the figures.

Maize and beet

Meanwhile, the big increase in area came from maize and beet. Maize and beet area increased by 6,505ha. Beet is only estimated to have increased slightly, while maize area is estimated to be up approximately 6,300ha to 26,000ha.

To look back at maize figures in 2021, maize area was 14,428ha and has increased by 11,572ha based on these estimated figures.

Land moving away from tillage farms

In the springtime, members of the tillage industry suggested the tillage area could decline by 20-35,000ha. These estimates outline a decline of 6,591ha. However, the increase in forage crops area of over 7,000ha would suggest a large amount of land leaving the tillage sector and moving to livestock farms.

The increase in protein/cereal mix crops and the increase in maize area signals a move away of land from tillage. So, while tillage area has declined by less than originally estimated, the figures would suggest that land has left tillage farms. Some of these forage crops may be grown on tillage farms, but some is being grown by livestock farmers. This is important to note as tillage farmers are losing scale on their farm which leads to a less viable business.

Official figures will follow from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and will give the preliminary area for all crops, including vegetables, based on BISS applications submitted in May 2024.