Signpost Farm Sustainability Plan (FSP)
Each Signpost farmer will be supported to create a farm specific action plan. The primary focus will be on the identification of farm specific actions to reduce gaseous emissions. Actions to improve both water quality and bio-diversity will also be included. Progress towards the achievement of the agreed targets will be reviewed on an annual basis between the Signpost farmer and their adviser.
Completing a Farm Sustainability Plan for all farmers would be resource intensive. Teagasc will explore how the plan could be adopted to create an online self-assessment tool for use by the wider population of farmers.This willbe based on experiences with the use of the FSP with the Signpost farmers initially. The usage of the FSP, targeting all farmers could be extended through a large scale training programme, involving all Teagasc Advisers and other rural professionals.
Soil Carbon Sequestration
Soil carbon sequestration is a process in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil carbon pool. This process is primarily mediated by plants through photosynthesis, with carbon stored in the form of soil organic carbon. Irish grassland has the potential to store carbon below ground in roots and soil. However, there is still large uncertainty surrounding baseline soil C values and verifying the strength and permanence of carbon sequestered in different soil fractions. A key part of the Signpost programme will be to quantify the baseline and the changes in that over time.
Measuring soil C sequestration
Teagasc is planning the establishment of a National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory to provide the knowledge required on soil carbon sequestration. The Signpost farms will be an integral part of this Observatory. Deep soil samples will be taken on the Signpost farms to establish baseline soil carbon levels. The sampling process will be repeated in a number of years’ time to monitor any changes.
Flux data from long-term eddy covariance towers will provide detailed information on carbon exchange at an ecosystem level; these towers will be located on a subset of the Signpost farms.Find out more about soil carbon sequestration here
Biodiversity and carbon sequestration in hedgerows
Biodiversity will be an important element of the FSP, with key actions to be undertaken on each farm outlined in the plan. It is also envisaged that a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) survey will be undertaken on each Signpost farm at the start and end of the Programme so that C sequestration in hedgerows can be quantified.
The Signpost programme and ASSAP
ASSAP targets a number of water quality hot spots, the dairy industry are involved as partners. The Signpost programme needs to target the whole country and will involve all sectors. Water quality is being dealt with in ASSAP by identifying and advising on specific problems on specific farms. It is a different issue to GHG emissions which need to be addressed on all farms. The two programmes will link closely. Each Signpost farmer will be visited by an ASSAP water quality adviser and any recommendations will be incorporated into the FSP for that farm.
Linkages with other Teagasc programmes and research projects
Teagasc will seek to link and integrate the Signpost programme with other initiatives e.g. the Grass10 campaign, our joint programmes with industry partners and new research projects in areas of climate action. For example, a new research project looking at the establishment of grass clover swards commenced in 2021. A number of the Signpost farms have been enrolled in the project. Grass10 will promote the lessons from the project with the wider farmer population.