An estimated 52,000 people have attended the Ploughing Championships in New Ross, Co Wexford. 

That figure is 19,000 down on the first day of last year’s championship.

However, the organisers hope the numbers will increase over the next two days.

Nearly 200,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event. 

Earlier, President Michael D Higgins opened the championships and said the event celebrates both tradition and innovation.

President Higgins visited competitors on the ploughing field before he formally opened the event at noon.

He said that there is a strong symbolism in turning over the sod - of beginning anew and moving on.

President Higgins said Irish people are living in difficult times but he said we have a sense of hope and we are moving forward.

This year's championships are taking place on a 700-acre site at Heath Park, just outside New Ross.

Over 300 competitors will take part in the ploughing event.

However, the machinery displays are the biggest attraction for most visitors.

There are nearly 1,300 trade stands with a special emphasis on the food sector.

Rain has been forecast for tomorrow but long stretches of metal walkways have been laid for visitors to walk on.

Environmental scheme 

Meanwhile, Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine Simon Coveney has announced that he is reopening an environmental scheme for farmers known as AEOS worth €20m.

The move has been welcomed by the Irish Farmers’ Association who estimate that 6,000 farmers could benefit, with a maximum payment of €4,000.

Traffic restrictions

Gardaí are advising motorists travelling to the event to follow the recommended routes.  

  • (Blue Route) N25 Cork / Waterford / Munster traffic follow N25 to New Ross and follow directional signs.
  • (Orange Route) North Munster, midlands and west traffic to Kilkenny follow R700 (Bennetsbridge / Thomastown road) and follow directional signs via Thomastown and Inistioge to New Ross.
  • (Green Route) Midlands traffic to Carlow: follow N80 (Enniscorthy / Bunclody road) and follow directional signs from Bunclody.
  • Also M9 southbound, exit at Junction 5 (Carlow) and follow directional signs to Bunclody as above.
  • (Purple Route) M11 / N11 (Dublin / Wexford Road) southbound. Follow directional signs for Enniscorthy / Wexford.
  • (Yellow Route) South Wexford (Wexford town and areas south of N25) approach site via Wellingtonbridge and Newbawn.
  • Note: All traffic approaching the site via Dublin M50 is requested to follow specific instructions on the information signs on the approaches to the M50.