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Better farming for water

8 Actions for Change

Go to Executive Summary 


Launch of a national campaign aiming to support and accelerate the adoption of actions on all farms to improve all water bodies, where agriculture is a significant pressure, to Good or High ecological status.

Download Publication (PDF)

Presentations from launch event

Teagasc Water Quality Campaign - Introduction (pdf) - Professor Frank O’Mara, Director of Teagasc
Better Farming for Water - 8 Actions for Change  (pdf) - Dr Daire Ó hUallacháin,
Environment, Soils & Land Use Department, Teagasc
Overview of Delivery - 6 Pillars   (pdf)  - Pat Murphy, Head of Environment & Knowledge Transfer, Teagasc
Building on the learnings from ASSAP.  (pdf) - Fiona Doolan, Sustainability Advisor, Teagasc
Development and Utilisation of Digital Tools to Enable Better On-Farm Decision Making  (pdf) - Dr Siobhán Jordan, Head of the Technology Transfer and CommercialisationNext Steps (pdf) - Professor Pat Dillon, Director of Research, Teagasc

Shane Fitzgerald is a dairy farmer in Portlaw, county Waterford. In this short video, Shane explains how he wants to leave the environment, and their farm and land in a better place than they got it.

Sean Sheridan is a drystock farmer and lives on the edge of Moynalty village. In this short video, Sean explains how on a visit from his ASSAP advisor, they walked the river bank on his farm and discussed some of the issues along the way. Sean decided to try and remove the cattle out of the river by installing a number of solar pumps to provide clean water to cattle and keep the river clean.

Better farming for water

Executive Summary

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., requested Teagasc to lead a multi-actor water quality advisory campaign to deliver clear, simple and positive messaging to enhance farmers’, as well as the broader agri-food industry’s understanding of the agriculture pressures on water quality and the need for improvement. As a result of this request, Teagasc has developed this document ‘Better Farming for Water’ to guide the campaign.

Agriculture in Ireland has a significant role to play in helping the country to achieve good water quality targets as set by the Water Framework Directive. However, farmers require technical support to increase their understanding of the impacts of farming on water quality and the actions to minimise the losses of nutrients, sediment and pesticides to water bodies. The ‘Better Farming for Water’ campaign will build on existing water quality programmes such as ACP, ACRES, ASSAP, Farming for Water EIP, Waters of LIFE, Blue Dot Catchments, Slaney project (and others) to improve water quality. The multi-actor (farmers, advisors/researchers, agri-food industry, community, government) approach to support farmers will ensure that challenges and solutions to address local water quality are delivered at farm, catchment and regional scale. This campaign is part of a wider whole-of-government approach to improve water quality.

Aim and Objectives

The aim of the ‘Better Farming for Water’ campaign is to support and accelerate the adoption of actions on all farms to improve all water bodies (where agriculture is a significant pressure) to Good or High Ecological Status.

The objective of the ‘Better Farming for Water’ campaign will be to support all farmers to reduce the loads of nitrogen, phosphate, sediment and pesticides entering our river network through either diffuse or point source pathways from agricultural sources. This will be achieved through the on-farm adoption of 8-Actions for Change, which involve better nutrient, farmyard and land management.
These 8-Actions for Change provide a structured, relatable approach for farmers to effectively engage with improving water quality. They will help to advance the understanding of the need for actions, and instill confidence that the actions undertaken are worthwhile and will result in sustained, positive improvements in water quality.

The 8-Actions for Change of the campaign aim to:

  1. Reduce purchased nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) surplus per hectare.
  2. Ensure soil fertility is optimal for lime, phosphorus and potassium.
  3. Ensure application of fertiliser and organic manure at appropiate times and conditions.
  4. Have sufficient slurry and soiled water storage capacity.
  5. Manage and minimise nutrient loss from farmyards and roadways.
  6. Fence off watercourses to prevent bovine access.
  7. Promote targeted use of mitigation actions such as riparian margins, buffer strips and sediment traps to mitigate nutrient and sediment loss to water.
  8. Maintain over-winter green cover to reduce nutrient leaching from tillage soils.

Delivery of the campaign

The ‘Better Farming for Water’ campaign will be delivered by way of six key pillars:

  1. Stakeholder engagement through a Multi-Actor Approach.
  2. Building Awareness by acquisition and utilisation of water quality data.
  3. Upskilling farmers, students, advisors, teachers and industry professionals.
  4. An impactful Knowledge Transfer programme.
  5. A supporting Research Programme to identify and develop effective mitigation actions.
  6. A strong Communications Plan with the target audiences.

Deliverable Impacts

  • Enhance farmers’ knowledge of local water quality and pollution pressures
  • Reduce nutrient, sediment, pesticide and pathogen loss to water bodies
  • Increase the proportion of river water bodies with agriculture as significant pressure to high/good ecological status