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Sustainability in Irish agriculture

24 July 2020
Type Media Article

By Conor Dowling, Environment & Technology Advisor, Castlerea.

Sustainability has become a buzz word of late and it is a term we are going to hear a lot more of in relation to Irish agriculture. Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present while also ensuring the ability of future generations to meet their needs. 

Sustainability as a concept encompasses three key elements; economy, environment and society. An example of a sustainable agricultural system would be a profitable system with little or no impact on the environment and one which has a social licence. This social licence refers to the publics’ perception and approval of practices in agriculture such as animal welfare, food traceability and environmental standards. The social licence that agricultural has in Europe provides funding to the sector and must be maintained because if lost it could take a lot of time and effort to regain. Currently the social licence for agriculture in Europe is firmly focused on the sector’s effects on the environment namely soil, air, water and biodiversity. This focus will continue with the recent announcement of some environmental strategies.

Launched by the European commission at the end of 2019 the Green Deal has a goal to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050 and it outlines how various sectors along with agriculture will achieve this. A medium term and more detailed strategy called “Farm to Fork” was announced in May of this year which outlines how the agriculture sector across Europe will help to achieve this goal up to 2030.

The Farm to Fork strategy aims to

  • reduce the usage of pesticides and antimicrobials by 50%
  • reduce biodiversity loss
  • improve animal welfare
  • increase the land farmed organically to 25% of EU agricultural land area 
  • reduce fertiliser usage by 20%

The effects on Irish agriculture of these future goals will provide challenges such as the adoption of new practices. However opportunities will also arise via increased funding by way of environmental schemes etc.

Sustainability is here to stay and environmental sustainability at farm level is going to become more important as we enter the new CAP in the coming years. Keep an eye out for upcoming series of articles on practical ways to improve the soil, air, water and biodiversity on your farm for this and future generations.

Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160), Roscommon Town  (Tel: 090 6626166) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021). You can find us on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford and twitter @teagascRNLD.