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Report on Farming and Water Quality Launched

ACP_Phase1_Report was launched by Tom Hayes, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The twin aims of the Agricultural Catchments Programme are protecting and improving water quality and supporting the production of high-quality food. The Programme is operated by Teagasc with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

I am delighted to launch this valuable report’ Minister Tom Hayes outlined. The Minister added, ‘The Agricultural Catchments programme is a flagship programme supported by my Department and which is adding immensely to our knowledge of environmentally sustainable food production systems.

Ger Shortle, Teagasc Manager of the Programme, said: “This report contains encouraging results for Irish farming and the environment. The streams monitored in all six catchments in the Programme met the drinking water standard with nitrate levels well below the limits for human health. Average groundwater nitrate levels were also within drinking water limits.”

Prof Phil Jordan, Principal Scientist on the Programme added, “Very rigorous scientific techniques were employed which monitored both nitrogen and phosphorus in catchment soils and different water bodies. Part of the work indicated that water quality had showed recent signs of improvement, likely due to the adoption of better management practices by farmers, but that there was a continuing need for monitoring.”

The significant challenges in meeting future water quality goals and the production targets set in Food Harvest 2020 are acknowledged in the report. Improving fertiliser and manure management on farms is a strategy to address these challenges that is identified in the report. This type of management change can deliver cost savings for the farmers and water quality benefits.

Ger Shortle thanked the farmers in the six catchments for their active participation and support which proved crucial to the success of the programme. He said, “Farmers in the catchments have embraced the challenges of producing high quality food while protecting the environment, both essential goals in the development of the food sector.”

The Agricultural Catchments Programme is a joint research and advisory programme operated by Teagasc in six agricultural catchments in Cork, Wexford, Louth, Monaghan and Mayo. It was established to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the Good Agricultural Practice measures that Irish farmers are required to implement under the Nitrates Directive. The Phase 1 Report details the outcomes of the programme over its first four year phase and summarises the results from published scientific papers.

Pictured from left to right, Dave Behan, Chief Agricultural Inspector, DAFM,  Tom Hayes TD, Minister of State, Department of  Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ger Shortle, Manager Agricultural Catchments Programme, Teagasc, Prof. Phil Jordan, University of Ulster, and Bill Callanan , DAFM at the launch of ACP_Phase1_Report.