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Teagasc publishes Research Impact Highlights in 2023

Teagasc has highlighted the impact of some of its research in a new publication - Teagasc Research Impact Highlights in 2023.

In any given year, the impact of Teagasc research is a combination of the continuing impact of past research and the new impact of recent research. This publication highlights some of these new impacts achieved in 2023.

To assess the impact of Teagasc’s research activities, the organisation developed a framework to guide its evaluation. Teagasc’s Director of Research, Professor Pat Dillon, said:

“This framework provides a structure to describe how Teagasc’s activities contribute to impact in the agri-food sector through three interconnected impact pathways: technology development and adoption; capacity building; and policy influencing.”

Climate action

Since the launch of Teagasc’s Climate Action Strategy in late 2022, many impacts naturally pertain to the climate. Pat Tuohy and colleagues' impact statement on ‘Refining emissions from peat soils’ has influenced policy by reducing emissions to 3.9Mt.

Greenhouse gas emissions from grassland peat soils were previously estimated at approximately 9Mt CO₂e per annum, making this the highest-emitting category from the land use, land-use change and forestry sector. This estimate was based on assumptions regarding the drainage status of these soils.

Teagasc's research highlighted the nature of these assumptions and proposed refined emissions estimates, which have been incorporated into the updated EPA National Inventory Report (March 2024). These estimates have significantly altered the wider understanding of the emission profile and the management of these soils, currently and into the future.

Also read: Refining emissions from grassland peat soils

Sustainable potato breeding

Across Europe, over 50% of potato land area is infested with the Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) species Globodera rostochiensis and Globodera pallida, which dramatically reduce yield and prevent the use of the produce for seed. PCN control has become even more difficult since many nematicide products have been withdrawn from the market, creating great demand for resistant potato varieties.

potato variety buster with tubers and leaves

Potato varieties such as Buster, developed under the Teagasc/IPM Potato Group breeding programme, represent the next step in sustainable agriculture and reduced pesticide and fertiliser use.

The impact statement ‘Sustainable Potato Cyst Nematode control through targeted breeding’ by Dan Milbourne and Denis Griffin has increased capacity building by using Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) in potato breeding to develop sustainable systems with reduced pesticide use. The Buster potato variety represents a significant technological achievement; the breeding team used MAS to stack six individual resistance genes in the variety, conferring almost complete resistance to both PCN species.

Safer dairy products

Chlorate residues in milk products threaten consumer confidence and the reputation of the dairy industry. As a means of minimising chlorate, a harmful, chlorine-based residue in milk and its derivatives, Irish farmers and milk processors have replaced chlorinated cleaning protocols with chlorine-free alternatives. The ‘Evaluation of the effectiveness of minimum chlorate technologies’  by David Gleeson and colleagues has increased technology development and adoption by evaluating chlorine-free detergents in the dairy industry.

Conversations for Change

Conversations for Change is a communication skills training programme developed for animal health professionals and Teagasc farm advisors. The behaviour change intervention, which forms the scientific basis for the initiative, was developed out of an interdisciplinary collaboration between psychologists, animal health professionals and veterinary scientists in the safefood-funded antimicrobial resistance project. This research project by Áine Regan and colleagues has impacted capacity building in how best to develop long-term training in this area and expand its application to other advisory programmes.

Professor Dillon concluded: “Ensuring our research delivers real impact for our stakeholders is a key priority for Teagasc. Teagasc is extremely fortunate to have an outstanding core of scientists, supported by top-class technical, farm, advisory, specialist and administration staff, whose work contributes to our collective research output and impact.”

View the full list of highlights across Teagasc’s research programme in the Teagasc Research Impact Highlights in 2023 publication here.