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Maintaining Biodiversity

Enhancing and maintaining biodiversity on intensively-managed farming systems.

Following recent Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, ‘greening’ was included as part of direct payments. The greening proposals require that Ecological Focus Areas comprise 5% of eligible hectares on arable farms (rising to 7% by 2017).

It is unclear what percentage of their eligible hectares farmers currently maintain as Ecological Focus Areas, and therefore what implication the greening measures will have on their farming enterprise. Furthermore, there are predictions that future revisions to the CAP and recent sustainable production strategies (e.g. FoodHarvest 2020, Bord Bia’s Origin Green) will impact more significantly on intensive grassland enterprises.

This Teagasc-funded project aims to enhance and sustain biodiversity on intensively managed farms. The study will comprise a farm-based habitat survey, a farmer attitudinal questionnaire and cost-effectiveness analysis. This will provide a baseline dataset of habitat cover on arable and intensively managed dairy farms in Ireland. The study will review the cost-effectiveness of potential measures to create and enhance Ecological Focus Areas on arable and dairy land. In addition, farmers will complete a questionnaire on their attitudes toward the environment and the cost of agri-environment options on their farms. This review and evaluation will identify appropriate measures for creating and enhancing Ecological Focus Areas that benefit both biodiversity and farmers.

Given the imminence of the CAP reforms, it is imperative that the lack of habitat data for Irish farms be addressed as soon as possible. Where these data are found to be very positive, this could potentially provide a very important and much overlooked marketing opportunity to Irish farmers and retailers in terms of capitalising on Irelands ‘clean, green’ image, which is one of the key priorities within the current national strategy for agriculture i.e. Food Harvest 2020 (DAFM, 2010) ‘Origin Green’ (Bord Bia).

For further information, contact Dr Daire Ó hUallacháin (daire.ohuallachain[at]teagasc.ie)