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Mitigating Agricultural impacts through Research and Knowledge Exchange


The “Grand Challenges” for food and agriculture in the 21st century include population growth, climate change, energy and water supply, all of which affect the potential of agriculture to provide an increasing secure supply of safe food. As a result, the “sustainable intensification” (SI) of agricultural production has become a priority issue for policymakers and international development agencies.

In Ireland, the industry-developed strategies for the agri-food sector, Food Harvest 2020 (DAFF 2010) and Food Wise (DAFM 2015), set ambitious agricultural expansion targets for the dairy sector in particular. This highlights the need for research and implementation science to facilitate sustainable agriculture. However, the pollution of surface and ground waters represents one of the main environmental problems facing agri-ecosystems. The EU Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) (WFD) was established as an overarching approach to protect water bodies, however, despite the implementation of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) regulations (S.I. No. 31 of 2014), which include a variety of measures designed to keep nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen on farmland, surface water quality has deteriorated in recent years.

WaterMARKE is an ambitious multi-actor research project which is co-funded by EPA and DAFM. The project connects the areas of biophysical science, socio-economics, behavioural psychology and implementation science in a unique and novel framework that goes further than most research projects in that it crosses over between research and knowledge transfer to provide outputs that are valuable to the research communities in these areas as well as producing a knowledge transfer template which tests and implements the learnings from the project. This project approaches the issue of water quality from the scientific, institutional, behavioural and Knowledge Transfer perspectives.

  • Firstly, the project co-designs risk assessment and mitigation measures in conjunction with farmers on the basis of biophysical, economic cost, transaction cost and farmer behaviour perspectives, before trialling these measures on a wider cohort of farms, with the help of Knowledge Transfer practitioners to develop and refine a Knowledge Transfer template.
  • The project also provides options for scaling up the implementation of proposed measures, based on expert opinion.
  • At a national scale, the project examines the roles and interactions of all the actors (institutions) involved in the agri-food production value chain, in order to examine how the information flows and the structure of future programmes could be improved to facilitate further sustainable development and intensification of Irish agriculture.

WaterMARKE Project Partners:


Dr Mary Ryan - Project Coordinator; Rural Economy & Development Programme, Athenry, Co. Galway

Dr. Karen Daly; Crops, Environment and Land Use Programme, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford

Prof. Owen Fenton, Crops, Environment and Land Use Programme, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford

Mr. Pat Murphy; Environment Knowledge Transfer (Head); Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford

Mr. Eddie Burgess; A/Manager Agricultural Catchments Project, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford

Mr. Tim Hyde; Environment Knowledge Transfer Specialist, Ballinalsoe, Co Galway

National University of Ireland, Galway:               

Prof. Cathal O’Donoghue; Principal Investigator: Dean of Arts, Social Sciences &Celtic Studies

Dr. Denis O’Hora; School of Psychology 

Dr. Jenny McSharry; School of Psychology 

University College Dublin:

Prof. Suzanne Kingston; Sutherland School of Law 

The Local Authority Waters and Communities Office: watersandcommunities.ie

Dr. Catherine Seale; Community Water Officer, Galway 

National Rural Network: nationalruralnetwork.ie

Dr. Maura Farrell; National University of Ireland, Galway
nui galway appointed lead researchers of new national rural network consortium