President Michael D Higgins has officially opened the 86th National Ploughing Championships near Tullamore in Co Offaly.

Close to 300,000 people expected to attend the three-day event at Screggan.

Over 112,500 attended the first day of the festival, an increase from 100,000 last year. 

Gardaí have asked those travelling to the event to be patient and to follow the suggested route signs that have been marked out rather than routes suggested by sat navs.

With over 100,000 people per day from every part of the country expected to converge near Tullamore for the ploughing, traffic management is key.

Gardaí have been planning and preparing for the event since March and there will be over 300 members of the force per day involved in the operation.

In particular, they are asking for people coming from Cork to the event to turn off the motorway at Horse and Jockey, and for those coming from the Kerry and Limerick region to leave the motorway at Nenagh and to travel through Borrisokane towards Tullamore.

Over 30km of steel trackway has been laid to make it easier for visitors to the event to get around. And with over 5,000km of electric cable laid there is enough electricity to power a small town of 8,000 people.

There is over €45m worth of machinery on display in addition to more than 1,700 exhibitors and trade stands.

We need your consent to load this Facebook contentWe use Facebook to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Pre-bookings for the ploughing are up on last year with a particularly strong interest from colleges and schools from as far afield as the Aran Islands.

Opening the event, President Higgins said farming is a valuable way of life that needs nurture, support and understanding and that the struggle of rural communities is something that should concern us all.

He warned about the vulnerability of farming and his concerns that unbalanced development, rural population loss, and depletion including loss of services such as post offices, shops, banks, pubs and restaurants and health services and how that impinges on the whole of society.

Meanwhile when speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme, Mr Higgins said he will announce his decision on a second term in office next summer.

When asked about his intentions, the President said he "won't rule anything out."

Farmers 'suffered' as a result of Brexit

President of the Irish Farmers' Association Joe Healy has said farmers have already suffered as a result of Brexit and the situation is not much clearer than it was a year ago.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland from the Ploughing Championships, Mr Healy said it was important, at political level, to keep the closest possible trading ties between the UK and the EU. 

Mr Healy said volatility with the exchange rate and the uncertainty it is creating, is costing farmers a lot.

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association President John Comer said business in the industry is good but that the volatility is difficult to deal with.

Mr Comer said mitigation against the volatility needs to "come fast".