Farming for Water Quality in a Priority Area for Action - Farmer Testimonial
The Glenaboy river in county Waterford is currently at Moderate ecological status. The river catchment is in a Priority Area for Action (PAA) for the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP). Find out how farmers and ASSAP advisors work together to improve water quality
The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) relies heavily on collaboration between catchment scientists, advisors, and farmers to improve water quality in a Priority Area for Action (PAA). The Glenaboy river is a PAA in county Waterford and it is currently at Moderate ecological status. This means the river is one step below the target of good status for water quality. It also means that measures will be required to ensure the river is protected from sources of pollutants.
An assessment carried out by the catchment scientist – Philip Murphy (LAWPRO) concluded that elevated nutrients are the significant issue in the river, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus levels. The sources of these nutrients were coming from both urban runoff and agricultural pressures. A report was compiled by the scientist and passed onto the Waterford ASSAP advisor Cathal Somers.
ASSAP advisors are available to work with farmers in the Priority Area for Action, offering a free and confidential service to help farmers tackle the issues. Laura Forbes, a dairy farmer availed of the ASSAP service and worked with Cathal to form a plan for the farm.
Laura and Cathal worked closely on addressing the issues identified by Philip. Together they came up with several measures that are expected to reduce the risk of pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Glenaboy river. The measures undertaken by Laura included relocating a drinking trough and closing off an animal access point. Both measures are expected to reduce the risk of nutrients (including nitrogen and phosphorus) entering the river through animal excrement whilst also have the added benefit of reducing sediment and pathogens entering the waterway. Another measure undertaken by Laura on her farm was the purchase of a Low Emission Slurry Spreader (LESS), the plan is to reduce the amount of chemical nitrogen being spread by more targeted use of LESS.
Laura soil tests each year to ensure the fertility on the farm is correct. She spreads lime where needed to ensure the soil pH is 6.3 to 6.5 on the farm, this is important to ensure nutrients are not locked up and improves nitrogen use efficiency.
Timing of nitrogen application is important to Laura, ensuring the grass is given the correct amount of nitrogen for the grass growth rate. Particular attention is needed at the shoulders of the year where growth is reduced.
Get more information on water quality week here
List of ASSAP Advisors is available here