The potato in Ireland's evolving agrarian landscape and agri-food system


  • Alice D’Arcy University College Cork



The scale, structure and impacts of food systems in Ireland have changed dramatically over the last several hundred years, predominantly since the mechanisation and intensification of farming began in the late nineteenth century. The transformation of the potato production system, which for the preceding century had dominated the Irish diet, was particularly dramatic. The time from the introduction of the potato c. 1600 to its catastrophic decline in the mid-1800s, represented a period of Irish agriculture distinctly at odds with what came before and after, involving as it did complete dependence on a single crop system. Despite devastating crop losses suffered in the nineteenth century and particularly associated with the Great Famine, the potato remained agriculturally significant in Ireland. From the late 1800s onwards the system underwent a transition towards the highly mechanised, specialised, intensive and market-oriented agri-industrial food systems of today. This new high input-high output system was accompanied by an expansion in environmental impacts extending from local to global scales. This article addresses that transition in the role and impacts of the potato in Ireland, from its introduction to the present day.

Author Biography

Alice D’Arcy, University College Cork

Department of Geography and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences



How to Cite

D’Arcy, A. (2014). The potato in Ireland’s evolving agrarian landscape and agri-food system. Irish Geography, 43(2), 119–134.