Teagasc: Sharing best practice knowledge and innovation at farm level

Sponsored Pioneering agri-environmental scheme underway in the Burren

The Burren: home to agri- environmental scheme designed to conserve and support the heritage, environment and communities of the region

The Burren: home to agri- environmental scheme designed to conserve and support the heritage, environment and communities of the region

Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 09:29

The Government has identified knowledge transfer between farmers as a key element of the new Rural Development Programme – part of the overall €12.5 billion agriculture programme for the period to 2020.

The knowledge transfer initiative is estimated to be worth €20 million per annum and is aimed at underpinning farm viability, sustainability and growth through the adoption of best practice and innovative solutions.

In addition, the programme is supporting a new beef data and genomics measure worth up to €52 million per year aimed at improving the genetic quality of the beef herd.

One means of achieving the desired knowledge transfer outcomes will be the establishment of European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) which will bring together farmers, researchers, advisors, business and others to advance innovation in agriculture. Priority areas include environmental and climate change challenges and on-farm efficiency enhancements. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has identified the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme as an example of how an EIP might work. This is a pioneering agri-environmental scheme designed to conserve and support the heritage, environment and communities of the Burren.

It grew out of the findings of the earlier BurrenLIFE Project (BLP) which developed a new model of sustainable agriculture for the Burren to conserve and renew its priority habitats. BLP’s success in bringing together farmers and other stakeholders, and its impact on habitats led to the establishment of the current programme which involves over 100 farmers working together to ensure the sustainable agricultural management of high nature value farmland in the Burren.

“These schemes have proven that the Burren can be a lot more sustainable if it is managed properly,” says Teagasc director of knowledge transfer Tom Kelly. “The knowledge of how to do this tends to be in the communities already and these partnerships can help people share that knowledge and help them deal with the various new regulations which are coming at them.”

There is also a proposal for an EIP based on beef data and genomics improvement. The objective is to improve the quality of the national beef herd. This measure will use the science of genomics to improve the cattle quality and increase the productivity and efficiency of the Irish suckler beef herd.

“The Suckler Beef Genomics Scheme is a great opportunity to bring the advantage of genomic technology to suckler farmers as has been demonstrated in the dairy industry, and we will work closely with Irish Cattle Breeding Federation in developing the cutting-edge science needed for the implementation of this technology,” notes Teagasc director of research Dr Frank O’Mara.

According to Tom Kelly, the EIPs will be able to take on any issue. “The idea is to take a topic and try to see how we as an industry can get behind it and take a team approach to resolving an issue or problem. The Agricultural Catchments Programme, which is ongoing, is an example of how this approach might work. It’s up to the farming and professional organisations to make proposals on the areas they would like to tackle.”