Project Title: Develop and assess a decision support system to integrate lowland and upland management on High Nature Value farms
The modernisation of agriculture has brought about enormous changes for many Burren farms and their management. The reversion to more traditional farming methods was a result of the highly successful BurrenLIFE project which later developed into the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme, and more currently, the Burren Programme. These have made the Burren become a blueprint for other locally led agri-environmental schemes (LLAES) across Europe. While these schemes have achieved so much in terms of conservation of the Burren landscape over the last 12 years, and contributed to farmers financially, there are still issues regarding how best to integrate the management of the upland species rich grasslands with the lowland more intensively managed ‘greenland’. Many of the farms in the Burren area consist of varying proportions of High Nature Value uplands (known as winterages) and more productive lowlands. In the past, management techniques and agri-environmental schemes have mainly focused on the development of one or the other despite them significantly influencing each other. The challenge now is to try and fully integrate the management of the two areas to benefit the farmer and the environment with the help of the Burren Programme. In order for farmers to successfully adapt to a change of farming system, support is required to determine best management practices available to them. The opportunity is there for further research to help achieve this and provide valuable practical information on matters which include; optimal times to close and reopen lowland and upland pastures, optimal calving times, nutrient balances on lowland and upland areas and the optimal use of housing and silage pastures within a more integrated system. Focus needs to be directed at decisions that influence sustainable farm development that align with the environmental concerns of the region. For this study, data will be gathered by interviewing 25 farmers who will represent the Burren geographically. These interviews will determine the management practices currently being performed and will provide farmers the opportunity to individually express any concerns or issues they may have within the Burren farming system. Depending on the outcome of the interviews further research may be conducted with the use of a focus group to evaluate the most effective method of knowledge exchange that can ensure best practice uptake.
Teagasc Supervisor: Catherine Keena
UCD Supervisor: Helen Sheridan
Location: Teagasc Advisory Office, Ennis, Co Clare
Download: Hayden Lalor presentation (Powerpoint)