• Functional Land Management for managing soil functions: A case-study of the trade-off between primary productivity and carbon storage in response to the intervention of drainage systems in Ireland

      O'Sullivan, L.; Creamer, Rachel; Fealy, Reamonn; Lanigan, Gary; Simo, I.; Fenton, Owen; Carfrae, J.; Schulte, R.P.O.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier BV, 2015-09)
      Globally, there is growing demand for increased agricultural outputs. At the same time, the agricultural industry is expected to meet increasingly stringent environmental targets. Thus, there is an urgent pressure on the soil resource to deliver multiple functions simultaneously. The Functional Land Management framework (Schulte et al., 2014) is a conceptual tool designed to support policy making to manage soil functions to meet these multiple demands. This paper provides a first example of a practical application of the Functional Land Management concept relevant to policy stakeholders. In this study we examine the trade-offs, between the soil functions ‘primary productivity’ and ‘carbon cycling and storage’, in response to the intervention of land drainage systems applied to ‘imperfectly’ and ‘poorly’ draining managed grasslands in Ireland. These trade-offs are explored as a function of the nominal price of ‘Certified Emission Reductions’ or ‘carbon credits’. Also, these trade-offs are characterised spatially using ArcGIS to account for spatial variability in the supply of soil functions. To manage soil functions, it is essential to understand how individual soil functions are prioritised by those that are responsible for the supply of soil functions – generally farmers and foresters, and those who frame demand for soil functions – policy makers. Here, in relation to these two soil functions, a gap exists in relation to this prioritisation between these two stakeholder groups. Currently, the prioritisation and incentivisation of these competing soil functions is primarily a function of CO2 price. At current CO2 prices, the agronomic benefits outweigh the monetised environmental costs. The value of CO2 loss would only exceed productivity gains at either higher CO2 prices or at a reduced discount period rate. Finally, this study shows large geographic variation in the environmental cost: agronomic benefit ratio. Therein, the Functional Land Management framework can support the development of policies that are more tailored to contrasting biophysical environments and are therefore more effective than ‘blanket approaches’ allowing more specific and effective prioritisation of contrasting soil functions.
    • Visual drainage assessment: A standardised visual soil assessment method for use in land drainage design in Ireland

      Tuohy, Patrick; Humphreys, James; Holden, Nicholas M.; O'Loughlin, James; Reidy, Brian; Fenton, Owen (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 20/08/2016)
      The implementation of site-specific land drainage system designs is usually disregarded by landowners in favour of locally established ‘standard practice’ land drainage designs. This is due to a number of factors such as a limited understanding of soil–water interactions, lack of facilities for the measurement of soil’s physical or hydrological parameters and perceived time wastage and high costs. Hence there is a need for a site-specific drainage system design methodology that does not rely on inaccessible, time-consuming and/or expensive measurements of soil physical or hydrological properties. This requires a standardised process for deciphering the drainage characteristics of a given soil in the field. As an initial step, a new visual soil assessment method, referred to as visual drainage assessment (VDA), is presented whereby an approximation of the permeability of specific soil horizons is made using seven indicators (water seepage, pan layers, texture, porosity, consistence, stone content and root development) to provide a basis for the design of a site-specific drainage system. Across six poorly drained sites (1.3 ha to 2.6 ha in size) in south-west Ireland a VDA-based design was compared with (i) an ideal design (utilising soil physical measurements to elucidate soil hydraulic parameters) and (ii) a standard design (0.8 m deep drains at a 15 m spacing) by model estimate of water table control and rainfall recharge/drain discharge capacity. The VDA method, unlike standard design equivalents, provided a good approximation of an ideal (from measured hydrological properties) design and prescribed an equivalent land drainage system in the field. Mean modelled rainfall recharge/drain discharge capacity for the VDA (13.3 mm/day) and ideal (12.0 mm/day) designs were significantly higher (P < 0.001, s.e. 1.42 mm/day) than for the standard designs (0.5 mm/day), when assuming a design minimum water table depth of 0.45 m.