Teagasc drive new water quality campaign
THIRTY sustainability advisors will start work with farmers next month as part of a major collaboration between Government and industry to improve water quality across the country.
The ‘Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme’ is a new approach to environmental management involving Teagasc, dairy co-ops and the local authorities.
The programme aims to provide advice and support to farmers in managing on-farm risks to water quality. This work will involve an assessment of slurry storage and spreading, fertiliser usage, and the application of agro-chemicals such as pesticides.
The initiative is part of the River Basin Management Planning 2018-21 programme which seeks to identify the pressures affecting water quality and to develop measures needed to deliver improvements. Over time, it is envisaged that the programme will address on-farm climate change and biodiversity strategies.
The programme will be jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, as well as being supported by the dairy sector.
It is understood that up to 20 of the new advisors will be drawn from Teagasc, with the remainder being employed by the local authorities and dairy processors.
A spokesman for Teagasc pointed out that the staff being employed will have an advisory rather than a regulatory role, and the intention will be to get farmers to take ownership of the programme at local level.
He said the initiative will employ the same knowledge transfer techniques used in other farm schemes and will seek to identify farming practices which are viewed as a threat to water quality, and to work out alternative approaches.
It is envisaged that the local authorities — with the technical support of the Environmental Protection Agency — will identify risk areas at local level. Teagasc and the dairy processors, working with the farm organisations, will then provide advice and support to farmers in managing on-farm risks.
“The objective of this new approach is to encourage and support behavioural change, facilitate knowledge transfer and achieve better on-farm environmental outcomes. These features are regarded as cornerstones of the drive towards better farming practices,” said Teagasc director, Professor Gerry Boyle.