November 18, 2023
More than 150 people attended the Upland Farming and Landscape Management Symposium held in Westport, Co. Mayo on Thursday, November 16th. The symposium was hosted by Teagasc in collaboration with the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Northern Ireland.
The symposium brought together farmers, scientists, policy makers, knowledge transfer experts and practitioners, as well as many rural and community organizations from across the island of Ireland involved in agriculture, upland landscape management and use. . The symposium combined scientific presentations and panel discussions, with contributions from farmers and wider stakeholders.
The symposium will be organized around four key themes around carbon, water, biodiversity and livestock, and will focus on farmer-centered economic, social and environmental underlined the important role of sustainable agricultural systems. The symposium focused on the complex and interconnected aspects of highland landscapes across these four themes.
The event was opened by Teagasc Director Professor Frank O’Mara. He emphasized the importance of the symposium in deepening our understanding of the current and future role of upland farming systems in both food and food production, and highlighting the wide range of efforts currently underway both within the Teagasc and across wider organizations. emphasized. Positive benefits for production and the environment.
Paul McHenry, Head of CAFRE Knowledge Advisory Services, also highlighted work underway in Northern Ireland, including at CAFRE Hill Farm in Glenwerry, Co. Antrim, to improve the knowledge base and field management that can be beneficial to both livestock. He said he had developed a practice. Production, water, carbon and biodiversity outcomes.
Dr Catherine Keena, Teagasc’s Countryside Management Specialist, outlines the history of how a range of policies have affected field farming systems and the environment, ensuring farmers remain adaptable and responsive to policy drivers and incentives. We emphasized that it has been proven to be sensitive.
He also spoke about the important role agricultural advisors play in supporting farmers in implementing practices and developing farming systems. However, she also pointed out that outcomes in agriculture and the environment, particularly in terms of biodiversity and habitat, were not always positive.
Focusing on carbon, the audience heard from UCD’s Dr Florence Renaud-Wilson that upland blanket wetlands contain significant amounts of carbon. However, this carbon accumulates very slowly and depends on water for this to happen. Therefore, drainage of upland peat can cause carbon loss. Therefore, a major goal of upland management should be to maintain carbon stocks by reducing these losses. Management tools highlighted to achieve this include managing the water table and avoiding vegetation loss that results in bare peat exposure.
Nicola Worden, CAFRE’s Senior Biodiversity Technician, explains how CAFRE, with support from partner organizations through the Glenwerry Hill Restoration Partnership, is implementing measures to improve upland habitats. I commented on what I was doing. Results from Glenwerry Farm show steady increases in ruffed grouse, sandpiper, sandpiper, lapwing and hare populations, as well as improved lamb and beef production. I am. The benefits of new technologies and practices, such as deforestation to reduce predation on nesting birds and virtual fencing techniques for livestock, are having positive outcomes for habitats.
The symposium also heard from Cormac McConigley, LAWPRO’s catchment manager for the Western Region, that potential pressures related to agriculture and forestry continue to exist in the highlands. However, waterbodies with a higher proportion of catchment areas within highland regions tend to have higher overall water quality than waters in lowland regions. It is an ongoing goal to maintain these waters in high quality and well maintained conditions.
The final session of the symposium included a summary by Declan Byrne of Teagasc on progress in the Wicklow Mountains arising from the Sustainable Upland Agricultural and Environmental Scheme (SUAS) EIP project. The farmers’ efforts in this project highlighted that the sustainability of upland grazing systems depends on the right types and numbers of livestock, the right timing, and the right areas of upland. Discussions on livestock systems, including advisor and farmer perspectives, highlighted the need for bottom-up and collaborative approaches in seeking solutions for upland systems based on high-quality research and science.
Wrapping up the symposium, Dr. Stan Lahrer, Director of Knowledge Transfer at Teagasc, commented on the positive attitude evident from both farmers and wider stakeholders in maintaining and developing upland farming systems. There is significant momentum around how upland farming systems can be developed through collaborative initiatives and supported through policy and results-based incentives. However, to realize and enhance the environmental potential that exists within upland landscapes, the overall economic and social viability of agricultural systems that support farmers and rural communities is a fundamental requirement.
You can view the lecture materials from the symposium.