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On-farm Steps to Benefit the Environment

On-farm Steps to Benefit the Environment

Climate change and the Environment are real and urgent topics which will be with us for a long time to come. In this short video Peter Comer, Mayo ASSAP Advisor looks at a few of the "heavy hitters" that farmers can adopt right now which will have a significant positive impact on the environment

The advice here can help farmers to make a significant positive impact on the environment and will help Ireland as a country to meet its environmental objectives.

Use Protected Urea

First up is protected urea.  If farmers were to switch from ordinary urea to protected urea and replace say half of their CAN usage to protected urea this would go a long way towards cutting our nitrous oxide emissions, which is a harmful GHG and also our ammonia emissions, which gives rise to poor air quality.  It would also help improve our water quality as N in urea is less easily leached and it would help our biodiversity in the sense that there would be less ammonia falling back down as nitrate from the atmosphere and inadvertently enriching naturally wild and sensitive areas.  All of this could come at no net cost to the farmer as trials have shown that protected urea yields as well as ordinary urea or CAN and it can be used right throughout the growing season.

Use Low emission slurry spreading (LESS)

Low emission slurry spreading (LESS) greatly reduces ammonia loss to the atmosphere thereby helping us meet our air quality target.  It also helps with biodiversity as there is less ammonia available to fall back down as nitrate on sensitive areas.  It benefits the farmer as there is more N available to the crop so less chemical fertiliser N needs to be purchased.  Having the pH status of your soil correct is essential to increasing Nitrogen Use Efficiency (as well as P & K) so that’s another practical step that farmers can take immediate action on.  Get your soil tested and apply lime where required.

Retain Existing Biodiversity

Another big thing every farmer can do right now is to hold on to whatever biodiversity is naturally occurring on their farms and to improve and enhance this where possible.  Land reclamation and drainage are the main culprits for its destruction.  Hedgerows are intrinsic to Ireland’s rural landscape but we are losing many of these each year while many others are being over-trimmed.  It would be great if farmers could plant more native hedgerows to replace some of the ones we’ve lost.  For existing hedgerows the best advice might be to do nothing – leave them to their natural devices or trim lightly in rotation.

Improving Water Quality

Mitigation measures in relation to water quality are important.

  • Make sure your farmyard is up to standard with no point source pollution.
  • Out on the land make sure you observe the required buffer zones when spreading slurry or chemical fertiliser.
  • Ideally you should fence off all drains, streams and lakeshore where possible.
  • It would be great if all cattle could be kept out our watercourses.  
  • Nose-pumps or solar pumps could help here if no piped water available.  
  • Make sure there is no discharge of dirty water from your farm roadway to nearby drain or stream.
  • Camber farmroad ways away from watercourse.

In the video below, Peter Comer, Teagasc ASSAP Advisor, Ballina, Co Mayo gives some practical steps farmers can do to lower greenhouse gases, retaining biodiversity while improving water quality.

The New Teagasc Signpost farm programme will demo many of these measures on 100 farms scattered throughout the country. Read more about the programme here

Read more here on Farming for water quality ASSAP

Teagasc Advisors including ASSAP Advisors are regular contributors of articles to Teagasc Daily. You can contact any of our Teagasc offices using this link Teagasc Advisory Regions here