• Effect of an agri-environmental measure on nitrate leaching from a beef farming system in Ireland

      Richards, Karl G.; Jahangir, M.M.R.; Drennan, Michael J; Lenehan, J.J.; Connolly, J.; Brophy, C.; Carton, Owen T. (Elsevier, 07/01/2015)
      Agricultural nitrogen (N) management remains a key environmental challenge. Improving N management is a matter of urgency to reduce the serious ecological consequences of the reactive N. Nitrate (NO3−–N) leaching was measured under suckler beef production systems stocked at two intensities: (1) intensive, 210 kg organic N ha−1 with two cut silage harvests; and (2) rural environmental protection scheme (REPS), 170 kg organic N ha−1 with one cut silage harvest. Three replicate plots of each treatment were instrumented with ceramic cups (8 per plot), randomly placed within each plot at a depth of 1 m to collect soil solution for NO3−–N at 50 kPa suction to collecting vessels one week prior to sampling. Samples were taken on a total of 53 sampling dates over 3 winter drainage periods (2002/03, 2003/04 and 2004/05). Over the course of the experiment the mean annual soil solution NO3−–N concentration exceeded the MAC twice out of 15 means (5 treatments over 3 years). The REPS grazing and silage sub treatments had significantly lower mean annual soil solution total oxidized N (TON) concentrations than the respective intensive treatments in years 2 and 3. Annual total NO3−–N losses over the three years in intensive and REPS systems ranged from 55 to 71 and 15 to 20 kg N ha−1, respectively. Mean N surpluses in intensive and REPS systems were 210 and 95 kg ha−1, respectively with the corresponding mean N inputs of 272 and 124 kg N ha−1. The reduction in N inputs under the REPS system results in lower N leaching losses and contributed to a significant reduction in pressures on water quality.
    • A review of evidence on the environmental impact of Ireland’s Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS)

      Finn, John A.; O hUallachain, Daire (Royal Irish Academy, 2012-04)
      Since its inception in 1994, there has been strong demand for evidence of the environmental effectiveness of the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), which paid farmers in the Republic of Ireland over €3 billion by 2010. A variety of research projects have been undertaken that investigate the environmental effects of REPS through an examination of either specific environmental measures or specific geographical areas. A review of available publications confirmed the absence of a comprehensive, national-scale study of the environmental impacts of REPS. Because of this, there is insufficient evidence with which to judge the environmental effectiveness of the national-scale implementation of the whole scheme. For some specific measures, however, sufficient evidence is available to inform an objective assessment in some cases, and to help learn how to improve environmental effectiveness in most cases. The majority of the REPS payments are now dedicated toward biodiversity objectives. Thus, biodiversity measures and options should be a priority for any national-scale environmental assessment of the scheme. Such a study would help identify the environmental benefits of REPS, the specific elements of REPS that are performing adequately, and those elements that are in need of improvement. Given the considerable overlap between REPS measures and options and those included in the 2010 Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS), assessment of REPS measures could also be used to inform the likely environmental performance of the AEOS.