The reduction in cereal crop yields on field headlands has previously been examined in other geographical regions, with research focusing on the relationship between yield and the distance from the crop edge. Headlands are subject to greater machinery trafficking than the centre of the field and the level of traffic imposed depends on the machine size and adopted turning practice. The aim of this work was to examine the impact of turning headlands on crop performance in a survey of 40 field sites in Irish conditions. The headland was categorised into three distinct zones: the area next to the field edge subject to moderate traffic intensities (field edge); the main headland area of greatest turning traffic (turning) and a transition zone (transition). An in-field zone (in-field) in which no machinery turns occur was also included. The 2-year survey included sites from three regions, four soil texture classes and had crops established with plough-based systems. Crop measurements, including plant densities, shoot counts and light interception, and yields were recorded at each site and included winter barley (WB), spring barley (SB) and winter wheat (WW) crops. The yield response of each crop type varied with sample zone, region and soil texture. There were significant (P < 0.001) yield differences recorded between the turning area and in-field zone for all three crops. Winter barley yields were reduced by 1.3 t/ha in the turning zone compared with the in-field section, while SB and WW had yield reductions of 2.08 and 4.04 t/ha, respectively, between these two field zones.