Grass­land tri­als score big on weight gain and ni­tro­gen re­duc­tion

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS -

IMPROVED an­i­mal per­for­mance and a po­ten­tial 90pc re­duc­tion in emis­sions of a po­tent green­house gas could be de­liv­ered by new grass­land species be­ing tri­alled by Ir­ish re­searchers.

Since 2013, re­searchers on the Govern­ment-funded SmartGrass project have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the po­ten­tial of multi-species grass­lands in com­par­i­son to peren­nial rye­grass swards. Find­ings to date in­clude: Es­ti­mated emis­sions of the po­tent green­house gas ni­trous ox­ide (NO) per tonne of herbage from the multi-species swards was only 10pc of that from the peren­nial rye­grass swards. This was due to a com­bi­na­tion of the lower lev­els of N fer­tiliser used and the high dry mat­ter yields achieved from the multi-species swards. ÷Lambs reared on more di­verse, lower in­put swards grew sig­nif­i­cantly faster, had lower in­testi­nal worm bur­den, were slaugh­tered ear­lier and had a higher kill-out per­cent­age than those reared on higher ni­tro­gen in­put peren­nial rye­grass.

“Given the pos­i­tive sce­nario these find­ings present for both farm­ers and the en­vi­ron­ment, UCD are cur­rently es­tab­lish­ing a long-term grass­lands ex­per­i­ment with hy­dro­log­i­cally iso­lated pad­docks at UCD Lyons Farm,” says SmartGrass re­searcher Dr He­len Sheri­dan from the School of Agricul- ture and Food Science, UCD. “This na­tional fa­cil­ity will be used to as­sess the sus­tain­abil­ity of Ir­ish grass-based agri­cul­tural sys­tems through in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ter­ac­tions be­tween three dif­fer­ent pas­ture types, an­i­mal pro­duc­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment, labour and farm eco­nom­ics.”

Funded by the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Food and the Marine, the SmartGrass project in­volves re­searchers from UCD, Tea­gasc and Belfast-based AFBI (Agri-Food & Bio­sciences In­sti­tute).

Ex­per­i­men­tal plots are lo­cated at UCD Lyons Farm and the Tea­gasc An­i­mal and Grass­land Re­search and In­no­va­tion Cen­tre, Grange.

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