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Catchment Science Conference Opens

An international environment conference, ‘Catchment Science 2011’ opened in the Mansion House, Dublin, today, Wednesday, 14 September. This conference, officially opened by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, is jointly hosted by Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Scientists from the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic will present papers on their research over the course of the three day conference.

In Ireland an Agricultural Catchments Programme (ACP) was set up in 2008 with some early conclusions presented at the conference. The research programme was set up in six agricultural catchments to look at the effectiveness of the measures in the National Action Programme established under the Nitrates Directive. It’s based on a partnership with farmers and other stakeholders and aims to support productive agriculture while protecting water quality.

Speaking in the Mansion House, Minister Coveney announced the extension of the funding for the Agricultural Catchments Programme for a further four year period from 2012 to 2015. He said this will allow a body of scientific evidence to continue to be built. Teagasc Director, Prof Gerry Boyle welcomed the support of Minister and his Department for the programme and the announcement that the project will continue to be funded to 2015. He also welcomed the support for the role of research, saying that the Agricultural Catchments Programme dove-tails with the ambitions of Food Harvest 2020, generating new knowledge to meet both the food production commitments and water quality targets.

Regulating farm nutrient management through measures that minimise the risk of nutrient loss to water is fundamental to Ireland’s approach to maintaining water quality. The six catchments represent a range of soils and landscapes used for intensive agriculture and were instrumented to observe interactions between regulations, nutrient losses and ecological status over one to three years.  

To evaluate specific measures that focus on limiting Nitrogen and Phosphorus inputs to levels that minimise potential losses to water, detailed nutrient input, off-take, soil nutrient status and crop and production type data were collected at farm and field level. These data allow calculations of nutrient requirements for optimum production on a farm, taking into account the variability in soil and crop requirements on a field by field basis. It also allows nutrient balances to be developed for further production systems and for whole farms and larger catchments scales which are used to assess nutrient efficiency levels and potential nutrient loses.

A wide range of papers are being presented over the three days dealing with the state-of-the-art in catchment science. The latest findings from the ACP and from the Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) will form an integral part of the conference.  

Minister Simon Coveney Opens International 'Catchment Science 2011' Conference and Announces Funding for Agriculture Catchments Programme (Department of Agriculture Press Release)