• Modelling Phosphorus for Grassland: Agronomically and Environmentally Sustainable Advice

      Schulte, Rogier P. (Teagasc, 01/01/2006)
      In 2006, the Nitrates Directive (through S.I. 378 (Anon, 2006)) was implemented in Ireland, aimed at reducing nutrient losses from agriculture to water bodies, i.e. surface waters, groundwater and estuarine waters. This legislation introduced strict regulation of nutrient management on Irish farms. Thus far, nutrient management had largely been based on Teagasc advice (Coulter, 2004). However, in the new policy climate, in addition to advice, compliance with legal limits is also required. This significant change in the practicalities surrounding nutrient management led to a review of Teagasc nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) advice, based on the following considerations: Traditionally, nutrient advice had largely been based on fertiliser rates for economically optimal productivity, i.e. rates at which further fertiliser applications would not result in higher economic returns. Now, SI 378 of 2006 demands that nutrient application rates do not exceed crop (grass) demand, nor result in nutrient losses that may have a negative impact on water quality. Previous phosphorus (P) advice (Coulter, 2004) was similar for all soil types, and did not account for potentially different P-requirements, or indeed potentially different risks of P-loss to water between soils. Previous P advice was based on returning optimum crop yields. However, grassland management in Ireland is increasingly focussed on maximising the amount of herbage grazed in situ. With extended grazing seasons and an increasing share of the animal diet consisting of grazed herbage, the scope and flexibility of diet supplementation through straights and concentrates is reduced. An increasing proportion of dietary P must be obtained from this grazed herbage as a result. Therefore P fertiliser strategies should no longer be based on yield responses alone, but in addition sustain adequate herbage P-concentrations in order to ensure that the dietary P requirements can be met on a non-supplemented diet of grazed herbage. Against this background, Teagasc, Johnstown Castle Environment Research Centre, undertook a major research programme, reviewing both agronomic and environmental aspects of P-advice for grassland.
    • Mapping the broad habitats of the Burren using satellite imagery

      Parr, Sharon; O’Donovan, Grace; Finn, John (Teagasc, 01/03/2006)
      This project has successfully used satellite imagery to survey and map the extent and spatial distribution of broad habitat types within the Burren, and we have represented this information on a digitised habitat map. this information on a digitised habitat map. This map is the first to show the distribution of the broad habitats of the Burren and will be an important tool in aiding future decisions as to how the habitats of the Burren should be managed to the benefit of both the farmer and the environment. The map provides the first estimate of the area of the Burren affected by scrub encroachment – this being one of the most significant threats to the EU priority habitats in the region. On a particularly challenging area with a high diversity and complexity of habitats, remote sensing appears to offer a very effective and cost-efficient alternative to broad-scale habitat mapping on a field-by-field basis. The use of high-resolution imagery and ground-truthing should be adopted to complete a detailed national survey of habitats and land use in Ireland. This would support more effective implementation of both the Agriculture sector’s obligations under the Habitats Directive, and agri-environmental schemes with wildlife objectives. The outputs provided by such mapping approaches could inform the targeting of agri-environmental objectives, and increase the efficiency of detecting areas of high conservation value for monitoring by more conventional methods. The detailed land use descriptions offered by such imagery are also of high relevance to modelling approaches and risk assessment for implementation of land use policies such as the Water Framework Directive and Nitrates Directive.
    • Nitrous Oxide Emissions

      Hyde, Bernard; Ryan, Mary; Hawkins, M.; Connolly, J.; Carton, Owen T. (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.
    • The impact of the grazing animal on phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and suspended solids loss from grazed pastures, Part A

      Tunney, Hubert; Kurz, Isabelle; Bourke, David; O’Reilly, Colin; Jeffrey, D.; Dowding, P.; Foy, B.; Kilpatrick, D.; Haygarth, P. (Teagasc, 01/06/2007)
      In Ireland 90% of the 4.2 million ha of farmland is grassland. Phosphorus deficiency limited grassland production in Ireland and this was corrected by chemical fertiliser use in the 1960s and 1970s. The increased inputs of fertilisers led to increased intensification of grassland with a doubling of grass yield and of grazing animal numbers, from about 3 million to over 6 million livestock units. There is little information on relative contribution of increased chemical fertiliser use compared to increased grazing animal numbers on phosphorus loss to water. The main objective of this study was to obtain information on nutrient loss, particularly phosphorus, in overland flow from cut and grazed grassland plots, with a range of soil test phosphorus levels over three years and implications.
    • 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 (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.
    • Pathways for nutrient loss to water with emphasis on phosphorus

      Tunney, Hubert; Kiely, G.; Morgan, G.; Moles, R.; Byrne, P.; Jordan, P.; Daly, Karen M.; Doody, Donnacha G.; Kurz, Isabelle; Bourke, David; O’Reilly, C.; Ryan, T. Declan; Holden, N.; Jennings, E.; Irvine, K.; Carton, Owen T. (Teagasc, 01/06/2007)
      The main objective of this project was to study phosphorus (P) loss from agricultural land under a range of conditions in Ireland, to quantify the main factors influencing losses and make recommendations on ways to reduce these losses. This report is a synthesis of the main conclusions and recommendations from the results of the studies. The final reports from the individual sub-projects in this project are available from the EPA (www.epa.ie).
    • National Soils Database

      Fay, Deirdre; McGrath, David; Zhang, Chaosheng; Carrigg, Cora; O’Flaherty, Vincent; Kramers, Gaelene; Carton, Owen T.; Grennan, Eamonn (Teagasc, 01/07/2007)
      The objectives of the National Soils Database project were fourfold. The first was to generate a national database of soil geochemistry to complete the work that commenced with a survey of the South East of Ireland carried out in 1995 and 1996 by Teagasc (McGrath and McCormack, 1999). Secondly, to produce point and interpolated spatial distribution maps of major, minor and trace elements and to interpret these with respect to underlying parent material, glacial geology, land use and possible anthropogenic effects. A third objective was to investigate the microbial community structure in a range of soil types to determine the relationship between soil microbiology and chemistry. The final objective was to establish a National Soils Archive.
    • The Farmland Wildlife Survey – raising awareness of wildlife habitats

      Gabbett, Mairead; Finn, John (Teagasc, 01/08/2005)
      The Farmland Wildlife Survey involved a short visit (about 3 hours) to 19 REPS demonstration farms, and an identification of habitats and wildlife on each farm, with an emphasis on common farmland habitats such as hedgerows, ponds, watercourses, field margins, woodland, plant species and other areas of wildlife value. The survey results were provided to the farmer and Teagasc REPS advisor as a report with colour pictures of representative habitats, and an explanation of why these habitats were important for wildlife.
    • Methodology for environmental assessment of agri-environment schemes: the Agri Environmental Footprint Index

      Finn, John A.; Louwagie, G.; Northey, G.; Purvis, G.; Balazs, K.; Mortimer, S.R.; Primdahl, J.; Vesterager, J.-P.; AE-Footprint project (Teagasc, 01/11/2010)
      Agri-environment schemes pay farmers for the provision of environmental services. Such schemes tend to have multiple measures that deliver multiple environmental objectives, and there is a lack of consistent methodology with which to measure the environmental benefits of such schemes. Funded by EU FP6, the Agri-Environment Footprint project (www.footprint.rdg.ac.uk) aimed to address this challenge, and this report provides results from selected components of the project.
    • Effect of Agricultural Practices on Nitrate Leaching

      Ryan, M.; McNamara, K.; Brophy, Caroline; Connolly, J.; Carton, Owen T.; Richards, Karl G. (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.
    • Examination of Production Systems for Mushroom Cultivation in Ireland

      Staunton, L.; Cormican, T.; Grant, Jim (Teagasc, 1998-08-01)
      The plastic bag growing system used in Ireland is very labour intensive requiring considerable manual labour input. This has several very undesirable consequences. It was because of these considerations that it was considered important to examine possible feasible alternatives to plastic bag production for the Irish Mushroom Industry. This project was set up at Kinsealy Research Centre to examine possible alternatives. Part of this consisted of examining commercial systems both at home and abroad.
    • Effect of Peat Grade, Irrigation System and Nutrition on the Production of Nursery Stock in Closed Systems

      Maher, M.J.; Kirkland, C. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      Containerised nursery stock plants in Ireland are almost exclusively produced in peat growing media using controlled release fertilisers and are irrigated by means of overhead spraylines with the drainage water going to waste. Concern about nutrient pollution and the need to use water and nutrients more efficiently may lead in the future to regulations about capturing and re-cycling drainage water. This would particularly apply where nutrients are incorporated in the irrigation as in liquid feeding or where hard water is being acidified to neutralise bicarbonate. These experiments were started to study the performance of nursery stock plants in closed systems and to compare ebb and flood and capillary irrigation with overhead spraylines. A comparison of a liquid feeding regime as against the use of controlled release fertilisers was also included. The use of fractionated peat allows peat substrates with a wide range of physical properties to be prepared by using graded fractions or blends. It was thought desirable to include these in the experiments as there may well be interactions between irrigation systems and substrate properties
    • Extension of the season of production and quality improvement of a range of vegetable crops.

      Murphy, Richard J.; Cullen, William (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      The use of modules for propagation together with growing aids such as plastic covers after transplanting has brought forward significantly the start of the harvest season and improved yield and quality of several important brassicas including swede, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. These container grown plants (modules) enables crops to be grown for part of the life cycle under protection in early spring and transplanted outside in March/April when conditions become favourable.
    • Reduced Fungicide Inputs in Winter Wheat

      Dunne, B. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      Nine trials were conducted over three years at three sites to evaluate the efficacy of reduced rates of various fungicide products for their biological efficacy in controlling stem, foliar and ear diseases of winter wheat as well as their effects on yield and grain quality, and to compare the relative profitability of full and reduced rates of fungicides. The results show that the use of half rates can give an economic benefit over that of full rates in many situations. In circumstances where variety or seasonal factors resulted in low to moderate foliar disease pressure the use of half rates gave similar yields to that of full rates. Where foliar disease pressure was high, half rates generally gave lower yields than full rates but the amount of the reduction varied with the fungicide product used. The use of spray additives improved the yield response of the half rate treatments in most cases. Disease levels (septoria) were higher in treatments where half rates were used, compared with the corresponding full rates, but the used of spray additives improved the disease control in the half rate treatments. The timing of spray applications is critical when half rates of fungicides are being used. Reduced rate treatments need to be applied more frequently. In these trials reduced rate treatments were applied as a three-spray programme rather than the conventional two-spray programme.
    • Reduced Herbicide Inputs in Cereals

      Mitchell, B.J. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      The objective of this project was to examine if herbicides used in cereals at rates lower than recommended by the manufacturer (reduced rates) would give acceptable weed control resulting in lower crop production costs. Field trials with a number of herbicides at full and reduced rates were carried out in winter barley, winter wheat and spring barley in 1994-1996. Herbicides used at recommended rates gave the highest and most consistent levels of weed control. Herbicides used at 50% of the recommended rates gave slightly lower levels of weed control than the recommended rates but did not result in lower yields. While rates lower than 50% gave about 70% control of weeds, grain yield was reduced in some trials. Reduced rates gave higher weed control in barley than in wheat. The level of weed control was influenced by weed species and the growth stages of the weeds at the time of herbicide spraying. Thus selection of herbicides and their rates of application should be field specific. The findings show that it is possible to reduce the amount of herbicides used in cereals with considerable cost savings and reduced risk of herbicide residues in grain, soil and water.
    • Nutrient management planning on Irish dairy farms

      Mounsey, J.; Sheehy, J.; Carton, Owen T.; O'Toole, P. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      The objective of the work undertaken was to investigate nutrient use on intensive dairy farms. A survey of 12 dairy farms was undertaken in 1997 to determine nutrient management practices. These were compared with current nutrient advice and recommended practices. Data recording was completed by the farmer and supplemented by regular farm visits to assist with and validate the process. The mean farm size was 64.8 ha with an average of 128 cows and an annual milk yield per cow of 5594 kg. The mean stocking rate was 2.58 Livestock Units/ha. Dairy cows accounted for highest proportion of the total livestock with most of the younger stock consisting of dairy replacements. Approximately 80% of soil P levels were greater than 6 mg/l while 67% of soils had soil K levels in excess of 100 mg/l. The mean soil P and K levels on the grazing and silage areas were 11 and 128 mg/l, 12 and 117 mg/l, respectively. The mean farm nutrient balance (inputs - outputs) established an annual surplus of N, P and K of 304, 18 and 53 kg/ha, respectively. The adoption of nutrient management plans instead of current practice would reduce N, P and K inputs on average by 44, 13 and 24 kg/ha, respectively. The use of the Teagasc revised P nutrient advice would further reduce the P input requirements by 2 kg/ha. On average the farms had 90% of the 16 week slurry storage capacity. Approximately 14, 42, 14 and 31% of the slurry was applied in spring, summer, autumn and winter, respectively. In all cases there was significant between farm variability. The soil P fertility on the survey farms is skewed towards index 3 and 4 when compared with the average for all samples received at Johnstown Castle. There is no agronomic advantage in terms of crop or animal production for soils to have P levels in excess 10 mg/l. This result indicates that P inputs to farms of this type can be reduced in many cases without prejudicing production potential. The nutrient balance conducted highlighted the extent of the nutrient surpluses and the between farm variability. The data suggest that there is not a serious nutrient surplus on the survey farms, which would require the use of additional off-farm land for slurry recycling, as obtains on pig and poultry farms. The study also indicates that although farm unit cost savings may be small in adopting nutrient management planning, overall farm savings may be significant. For example on the survey farms, savings of up to £2,000 can be achieved apart from the obvious positive environmental impact.
    • The development of an organic farming system (OFC) based on best practices with an organice farmer pilot group, End of Project Reports, Teagasc, 1998.

      MacNaeidhe, F.S.; Murphy, W.; Lynch, M.; Codd, F. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      The farming system was developed with the assistance and co-operation of ten pilot farmers during the period March 1993 to March 1997. The purpose of the project was to develop a method which would enable farmers to practice a system of farming which was sustainable and friendly towards the environment. This was achieved by way of three major objectives. These were: (A) The production of high quality and healthy pasture and livestock. (B) Development of a fertile soil and a clean environment. (C) Production of a diverse flora and attractive landscape. These objectives were achieved by the application of three basic husbandry practices which were combined in a complementary way into a single farming system. These were: (a) Multifunctional Grassland Management (MGM) to achieve objective A (b) Ecological Nutrient Management (ENM) to achieve objective B (c) Ecological Infrastructural Management (EIM) to achieve objective C. Four criteria were used to evaluate the applicability of the husbandry practices and their success. These were: (1) Is it ready for use. (2) Is it acceptable to the farmer. (3) Is it manageable for the farmer. (4) Is it effective. The investigation showed that • The use of pilot farmers is an effective method of developing practical organic farming systems and disseminating information on these systems among farmers. • Application of multifunctional grassland management (MGM) gave better health in sheep and cattle through better pasture hygiene. • Of the three basic husbandry practices which were used the advantages of ecological nutrient management (ENM) was the most easily understood and most readily applied by the farmers. • Grassland fertility was maintained by grazing and cutting in a l t e rnate years and by recycling measured amounts of farmyard manure on to silage land. • There is little or no risk of environmental pollution with the application of the farming system which was developed during the investigation. • The advantages of ecological infrastructural management (EIM) was least readily understood and applied by the pilot farmers. • The application of EIM was slower to yield positive results compared with MGM and ENM. • The presence of good hedgerow networks on most of the farms reduced the need for a strong programme of EIM.
    • Epidemiology and control of pink rot in potatoes.

      O'Sullivan, E.; Dowley, L.J. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      Rotting of tubers was reported in early potato crops in Co. Wexford in 1995. Geotrichum candidum, which causes a condition known as rubbery rot, was isolated from a sample of affected tubers. In further investigations in 1996 both G. candidum and Phytophthora erythroseptica, the cause of pink rot, were isolated from diseased tubers. In pathogenicity tests P. erythroseptica re-infected tubers while G. candidum did not. It was concluded that the disease was pink rot. In 1997 foliar applications of the systemic fungicide metalaxyl were evaluated for its control. The level of control obtained was insufficient to overcome the problem which pink rot can cause in early potatoes.
    • Biodiesel production from camelina oil, waste cooking and tallow.

      waste cooking oil; Rice, Bernard; Frohlich, A.; Leonard, A. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      The high cost and lack of availability of raw materials is limiting the expansion of bio-diesel production. The aim of this project was to examine the potential of alternative vegetable oils, oil wastes or animal fats as bio-diesel feedstocks, and the performance of road vehicles using bio-diesel blends made from these materials. Three feedstock materials were considered: waste cooking oil from the catering industry, Camelina oil, and beef tallow. Thirty-four 300-litre pilot-scale batches of these materials were esterified, and yields and bio-diesel properties were measured. Five growers produced about 6 ha of camelina sativa on their set-aside land. Vehicle performance trials were carried out with five fuel blends involving bio-diesel and mineral fuel. A plant to produce approx 3000 tonnes per annum of bio-diesel was specified and costed. The work has concluded that waste cooking oil is the most promising raw material for the immediate start-up of bio-diesel production. A proportion of camelina oil could also be used. Further work is required to overcome technical problems with tallow. The cost of bio-diesel production in a 3000 t/yr plant from these raw materials was estimated at from 27 to 32 pence per litre of fuel. Reduction of excise on biodiesel to the level applied to heating and agricultural fuels would make its final price competitive with mineral diesel for road use. The excise remission could be justified by a reduction of global warming and harmful vehicle exhaust emissions, and the provision of a safe disposal system for otherwise waste materials.
    • Bi-cropping of winter wheat and white clover.

      Burke, J.I.; Thomas, T.M.; Finnan, John. (Teagasc, 1998-09-01)
      Growing cereals in a leguminous living mulch (bi-cropping) could potentially reduce the need for synthetic inputs to cereal production while preventing losses of nutrients and increasing soil biological activity. The objective of this project was to investigate how bi-cropping (a low input production system for cereals) would compare with conventional winter wheat production systems in terms of total biomass, grain yield and biological diversity. This study has resulted in valuable information on bi-cropping being generated as well as identifying the potential benefits that can be expected under Irish conditions. While the results indicate that winter wheat can be successfully established in an understorey of white clover if sown early in good conditions, competition from grass weed species represents a serious impediment to successful bi-cropping in the longer term. Consequently further research is needed before such a system can be presented to the agricultural community.