Environment – Ministerial visit to Teagasc Signpost Farm marks World Soil Day – Teagasc

Ministerial visit to Teagasc Signpost Farm marks World Soil Day

To mark World Soil Day, Senator Pippa Hackett, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity, took the opportunity recently to visit Thomas, Florence and David Fennellys’ farm near Emo, Co. Laois.

The Fennellys are dairy farmers participating in the Teagasc Signpost Programme and are carrying out activities to reduce greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions, and improve water quality, soil health and the overall biodiversity on their farm.

The Signpost Programme is a multi-annual campaign to lead climate action by all Irish farmers. It aims to achieve early progress in reducing gaseous emissions from Irish agriculture to improve water quality, maintain and in some cases improve bio-diversity, and to reduce costs and create more profitable and sustainable farming enterprises.

Also participants in the Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farm Programme, the Fennellys milked 330 cows this year. The herd’s calving interval is 370 days, with a six-week calving rate of 92%.

Commenting on her visit, Minister Hackett said: “I was delighted to hear what the Fennellys are doing to make their farm more sustainable. Their focus on implementing sustainable soil management practices and improving soil health on their farm is evident. Healthy soils play a crucial role in regulating water retention and availability in agriculture.”

She added: “The health of the soil, and the quality and availability of water are interconnected. Both are an integral and necessary part of our lives and I welcome that World Soil Day is highlighting this important interconnection.”

Approval letters for soil sampling scheme

Also as part of World Soil Day, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue announced that approval letters for phase two of the Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme will issue to 7,000 farmers this week.

This programme will provide valuable information to farmers to inform decisions that promote the health of their soils and is aimed at putting soil health, soil fertility and soil carbon at the very centre of our future agricultural model.

Commenting at this announcement, Minister McConalogue said: “I am delighted to see progress with the programme and I wish our new partner the Irish Soil Expert Consortium well in the delivery of the sampling, analysis and provision of approximately 90,000 soil sample results to our farmers.”

The Irish Soil Expert Consortium was awarded the contract for provision of phase 2 of this sampling programme following a public procurement process and it comprises of National Co-op Farm Relief Services, Southern Scientific Services Limited, FBA Laboratories, Dairygold and Teagasc.

European Soil Mission Manifesto

Minister Heydon, Minister of State with responsibility for Research, also used the occasion of World Soil Day to announce the signing of the European Soil Mission Manifesto. The Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme 2021-2027 is the European Union’s key initiative for funding research and one of its five missions is the ‘Soil Deal for Europe’. The Soil Mission Manifesto highlights the urgent need for action to protect soil health and the signing of the manifesto is an important element in the success of Soil Mission.

Marking his signing of the Manifesto, Minister Heydon said: “Food Vision 2030 highlights that good soil health is critical in terms of agricultural output, producing nutrient-dense food, sequestering carbon, supporting habitats and biodiversity, and building resilience against climate change. The Soil Mission will enable research in these areas, and I am delighted to sign the Soil Mission Manifesto on this World Soil Day and believe it is an important demonstration of my department’s commitment to the Soil Mission.”

Minister Heydon also noted that one of the four projects funded through the recently announced €3.8 million 2023 Ireland – New Zealand Joint Research Call is examining the implications of land management practices on organic peat soils with a particular emphasis on greenhouse gas emission reductions. This project, he said, will receive just over €1 million.

More from World Soil Day

A number of articles were published on Teagasc Daily to mark World Soil Day, see these articles below:

Also read: Why do we need a Soil Health Law?

Also read: A grá for nematodes and the EU’s first soil health law

Also read: Healthy soil is important for Ireland’s bees

Also read: Soil carbon capture – an effective tool to combat climate change

Pictured at Minister Hackett’s visit to the Fennellys’ farm are from left to right: George Ramsbottom, Teagasc; Mary Cleary, DAFM; Thomas and Florence Fennelly; Minister of State Pippa Hackett; Niall Ryan, DAFM; David Fennelly; Lorcan Dooley, Teagasc; and Méabh O’Hagan, Teagasc.

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