Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

The ACP – a valuable team

The ACP has a longstanding partnership with the Land Sciences department at South East Technological University, Waterford. Here, two SETU lecturers reflect on the ongoing value the ACP has for their students.

TResearch Autumn 2023

Castledockrell catchment, Co Wexford

For the past 12 years, final year Agricultural Science and Land Management students have been taken on an annual field visit to the Agricultural Catchments Programme (ACP). This is done as part of the students’ year 4 “Soil Nutrient Management” module. Students from South East Technological University go on to work in roles across the wider agri-sector, including farming, industry, research and policy. Understanding both the effects of land management and the scientific methodologies supporting our current knowledge is therefore crucial in equipping students for their future careers.

Enthusiasm and teamwork

While Teagasc personnel has changed a little over the years, team members like Edward Burgess and Per-Erik Mellander have been ever-present, helpful, informative and good humoured. The manner in which people like Edward and Per-Erik, along with many other researchers, advisors and technicians from the ACP, have engaged with our undergraduate students has been fantastic, and they have always been extremely generous with their time. It truly is a team effort from the ACP.

The value of the ACP has always come across very strongly. This is clearly applied research that has tangible impacts on agricultural policy and which is clearly used to influence pieces of legislation that impact in a real way on farming practices on the ground. The focus on inputs, pathways and impacts of pollutants – be they nutrients or otherwise – on a catchment scale means the results gleaned from the research can be used to scientifically evaluate the effect of farm practices on water. These tangible outcomes are no dou

bt the reason why a great many of the staff working on the ACP are so energised, enthusiastic about their work, and always keen to share their results with the visiting students.

Constantly evolving

Recent expansion into the area of gaseous emissions has allowed the scientists to look more broadly at the eventual destination of elements like nitrogen which of course, as well as being taken up by plants or lost to groundwater via leaching, can also be lost in the form of ammonia or nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.

The story being told by the catchment scientists is a complicated one and seems to constantly evolve. The variability of nutrient pathways depending on farm practices, soil type, weather conditions, etc, can be immense. With some processes taking a very long time and others happening relatively quickly, a full evaluation is always difficult to pin down. Nevertheless, the vast amount of data that continues to be collected as part of this research project allows scientists to speak more and more confidently about nutrient/pollutant impacts. Consequently, it emphasises the need for advice given to farmers, and government schemes and legislative tools, to be more targeted and ultimately more effective and impactful. 

[pic credit] Teagasc


Tony Woodcock and Sara Vero, Agricultural Science lecturers, South East Technological University, Waterford.