Tea­gasc drive new water qual­ity cam­paign

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS -

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.

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