• Functional land management: A framework for managing soil-based ecosystem services for the sustainable intensification of agriculture

      Schulte, Rogier P.; Creamer, Rachel; Donnellan, Trevor; Farrelly, Niall; Fealy, Reamonn; O’Donoghue, Cathal; O’hUallachain, Daire (Elsevier, 2013-11-20)
      Sustainable food production has re-emerged at the top of the global policy agenda, driven by two challenges: (1) the challenge to produce enough food to feed a growing world population and (2) the challenge to make more efficient and prudent use of the world's natural resources. These challenges have led to a societal expectation that the agricultural sector increase productivity, and at the same time provide environmental ‘ecosystem services’ such as the provision of clean water, air, habitats for biodiversity, recycling of nutrients and mitigation against climate change. Whilst the degree to which agriculture can provide individual ecosystem services has been well researched, it is unclear how and to what extent agriculture can meet all expectations relating to environmental sustainability simultaneously, whilst increasing the quantity of food outputs. In this paper, we present a conceptual framework for the quantification of the ‘supply of’ and ‘demand for’ agricultural, soil-based ecosystem services or ‘soil functions’. We use Irish agriculture as a case-study for this framework, using proxy-indicators to determine the demand for individual soil functions, as set by agri-environmental policies, as well as the supply of soil functions, as defined by land use and soil type. We subsequently discuss how this functionality of soils can be managed or incentivised through policy measures, with a view to minimising the divergence between agronomic policies designed to promote increased agricultural production and environmental policy objectives. Finally, we discuss the applicability of this conceptual framework to agriculture and agri-environmental policies at EU level, and the implications for policy makers.
    • Modelling the Gross Cost of Transporting Pig Slurry to Tillage Spread Lands in a Post Transition Arrangement within the Nitrates Directive.

      Fealy, Reamonn; O'Donoghue, Cathal; Hanrahan, Kevin; Martin, Michael; Schulte, Rogier P. (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2012)
      The context of this paper is in the phasing out of the transitional arrangement under the Nitrates Directive. As there is relatively little grassland capable of taking significant amounts of pig slurry available in the vicinity of the main pig production areas, in this paper we attempt to quantify the cost of transporting this slurry to the nearest available tillage land. The approach taken was to examine the geographic structure underlying the pig sector in Ireland using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. The study highlighted the differential cost with, amounting to 10% of gross margin on average and as high in major pig producing areas as 21.5% in Longford and 16.6% in Cavan, while lower at 7-9% in South Tipperary and Cork. Thus while the problem is significant, the impact is not constant across the country, highlighting the value of a spatial analytical approach. Future work should assess the existing cost of spreading manure in order to be able to ascertain the net cost of spreading on tillage lands. The robustness of the results also need to be tested to assess the implications of changes in the prices of fossil fuels and fertilisers, both in terms of the cost function and in terms of the cost of substitutable mineral fertiliser