• Effect of Agricultural Practices on Nitrate Leaching

      Ryan, Michael; McNamara, Kevin; Brophy, C.; Connolly, John; Carton, Owen T.; Richards, Karl G.; Environmental Protection Agency (Teagasc, 01/12/2005)
      A farm-scale study, carried out at Teagasc, Moorepark (Curtin’s farm), examined the effect of four managements (treatments) on nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) leaching over the period 2001-`05. Leaching was measured in these treatments: (T1) plots receiving dirty water and N fertilizer which were grazed; (T2) 2-cut silage and grazing plots receiving slurry and fertilizer N; (T3) grazed plots receiving fertilizer N and (T4) 1-cut silage and grazing plots receiving slurry and fertilizer N. The soil is a free-draining sandy loam overlying Karstic fissured limestone. The mean direct N inputs (kg/ha) for T1-T4 in 2001-`04 were 311, 309, 326, 331, respectively, with stocking rates (LU/ha) of 2.12 - ~2.47. Eight ceramic cups per plot, in 3 replicate plots of each treatment, were used to collect water, on a weekly basis, from 1.0 m deep using 50 kPa suction. There were 33, 37, 26 and 24 sampling dates in the 4 years, respectively. The NO3-N and NH4-N concentrations (mg/l) were determined in the water samples. The annual average and weekly concentration of these parameters was statistically analysed for all years, using a repeated measures analysis. The aggregated data were not normally distributed. There was an interaction between treatment and year (p<0.001). Significant differences (p=0.05) in NO3-N concentrations showed between the treatments in years 1, 2, 4 but not in year 3. For the NH4-N data there was no interaction between treatment and year, p=0.12, or main effect of treatment, p=0.54 but there were differences between years, p=0.01. Mean weekly concentrations were analysed separately for each year. For NO3-N, in years 1, 2 and 4 there was an interaction between treatment and week (p<0.001). With NH4-N, there was an interaction between treatment and week in all 4 years. Dirty water was significantly higher than grazed and 1 cut silage in NO3-N concentrations in year 1; in year 2, dirty water and 2 cut silage were significantly higher than the other treatments while in year 4, dirty water and grazed were significantly higher than the other two treatments. The overall four-year weighted mean NO3-N and NH4-N concentrations were 8.2 and 0.297 mg/l. The NCYCLE (UK) model was adapted for Irish conditions as NCYCLE_IRL. The NCYCLE empirical approach proved to be suitable to predict N fluxes from Irish grassland systems in most situations. Experimental data appeared to agree quite well, in most cases, with the outputs from NCYCLE_IRL. The model was not capable of predicting data from some of the leaching experiments, which suggests that the observed leaching phenomena in these experiments could be governed by non-average conditions or other parameters not accounted for in NCYCLE_IRL. An approach that took into account denitrification, leaching and herbage yield would probably explain the differences found. NCYCLE_IRL proved to be a useful tool to analyse N leaching from grazed and cut grassland systems in Ireland.
    • Identification Of Environmental Variables For Use In Monitoring For The Evaluation Of The Rural Environment Protection Scheme

      Finn, John A.; Kavanagh, B.; Flynn, M.; Environmental Protection Agency; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; 2001-EEA/DS10-M2 (Teagasc, 01/04/2005)
      The aim of this study was to identify and select quantitative environmental attributes for a monitoring programme that may be integrated into an environmental evaluation of Ireland’s agri-environmental scheme. This was achieved primarily by reviewing a range of agri-environmental indicators and suggesting indicators that would be appropriate for monitoring the REPS. The study conducted a desk review to collate information on current best practice in monitoring for environmental quality. A Project Group (comprising representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], Department of Agriculture and Food [DAF], Teagasc, and the project supervisors) advised on the ongoing development of the project. There was a consultation process with national experts, and with a selection of stakeholder organisations with an interest in monitoring the environmental impact of the REPS.
    • The impact of grazing cattle on soil physical properties and nutrient concentrations in overland flow from pasture, Part B

      Kurz, Isabelle; O’Reilly, Conor; Tunney, Hubert; Bourke, David; Environmental Protection Agency (Teagasc, 01/06/2007)
      The loss of nutrients from agricultural land to water bodies is a serious concern in many countries. To gain information on the contribution of grazing animals to diffuse nutrient losses from pasture areas to water, this study looked at the impact of cattle on nutrient concentrations in overland flow and on soil hydrology (bulk density, macroporosity and resistance to penetration). Rainfall simulations to produce overland flow were conducted and soil physical measurements were taken on experimental plots assigned to one of two treatments: 1) cattle had unrestricted access to the plot; 2) cattle could graze the plot but they could neither walk on the plot area nor deposit excrements on it. Areas to which the cattle had free access were characterised by 57%-83% lower macroporosity, by 8%-17% higher bulk density and by 27%-50% higher resistance to penetration than areas from which the cattle were excluded. The nutrients in overland flow from grassland that were affected by the presence of grazing animals were mainly the particulate nitrogen, the organic phosphorus and the potassium concentrations. Overall, the presence of cattle had a longer lasting effect on the soil hydrological parameters measured than on the nutrient concentrations in overland flow.
    • Nitrous Oxide Emissions

      Hyde, Bernard; Ryan, Mary; Hawkins, M.; Connolly, John; Carton, Owen T.; Environmental Protection Agency (Teagasc, 01/04/2005)
      Nitrous oxide (N2O) is one of the three most important greenhouse gases (GHG). Nitrous oxide emissions currently account for approximately one third of GHG emissions from agriculture in Ireland. Emissions of N2O arise naturally from soil sources and from the application of nitrogen (N) in the form of N fertilizers and N in dung and urine deposition by grazing animals at pasture. Nitrous oxide emission measurements were conducted at three different scales. Firstly, a large-scale field experiment was undertaken to compare emission rates from a pasture receiving three different rates of N fertilizer application and to identify the effects of controlling variables over a two-year period. Variation in emission rates was large both within and between years. Two contrasting climatic years were identified. The cooler and wetter conditions in year 1 gave rise to considerably lower emission levels than the warmer and drier year 2. However, in both years, peak emissions were associated with fertilizer N applications coincident with rainfall events in the summer months. A small-plot study was conducted to identify the individual and combined effects of fertilizer, dung and urine applications to grassland. Treatment effects were however, difficult to obtain due to the overriding effects of environmental variables. Thirdly, through the use of a small-scale mini-lysimeter study, the diurnal nature of N2O emission rates was identified for two distinct periods during the year. The occurrence of a diurnal pattern has important implications for the identification of a measurement period during the day which is representative of the true daily flux. The research presented aims to identify the nature and magnitude of N2O emissions and the factors which affect emission rates from a grassland in Ireland. Further work is required to integrate the effects of different soil types and contrasting climatic regimes across soil types on N2O emissions.
    • Pathways for Nutrient Loss to Water; Slurry and Fertilizer Spreading

      Ryan, T. Declan; Holden, Nicholas M.; Carton, Owen T.; Fitzgerald, D.; Murphy, F.; Environmental Protection Agency (Teagasc, 08/07/2008)
      There are almost 150,000 farms in Ireland and these contribute substantial quantities of N and P to inland and coastal waters. Some of these nutrients are carried from wet soils by overland flow and by leaching from dry soils. Farm practice can reduce the loss from farms by judicious management of nutrients. Improvements are required to diminish export of nutrients without impairing operations on the farm. Literature regarding nutrient loss from agriculture was reviewed in this project and maps were prepared to predict best slurry spreading times around Ireland. Two further maps were prepared to show slurry storage requirement on farms.