by Kathleen O’Sullivan, Agriland
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pippa Hackett, has called on livestock farmers to “consider trying out new ways of managing their pastures”.
Speaking in the Seanad, where she highlighted an “upcoming department reseeding scheme which will provide multi-species sward seed at no extra cost”, a programme that has been allocated €1 million in Budget 2022, the minister said:“I believe chemical nitrogen-free pasture management can be the future.
“In the past few weeks, I have seen exciting examples of successful intensive farming with no recourse to artificial fertiliser and I hope our upcoming scheme will encourage many more farmers to try it out, even in a small way.”
‘This is the future’ – Hackett
Referring to the dangers of overuse of synthetic fertilisers, the minister continued:
“We are a long way off this situation in Ireland but it is the case that in the end, synthetic fertiliser – if we apply enough of it for long enough – will not just continue polluting our rivers with its losses, it will turn our soil into a barren desert in which nothing will grow.
“But while chemical nitrogen helps grass grow, so – thankfully – does naturally fixed nitrogen. And clover is a really efficient natural nitrogen-fixing machine.”
Minister Hackett said Teagasc was engaged with various clover and multi-species sward trials that were showing very encouraging results, and concluded:
“Managing a multi-species sward is different from simply applying nitrogen. In some ways it’s more difficult, in other ways it’s easier.
“But I certainly believe it’s worth it. Not just for the potential saving on fertiliser costs, but also for the satisfaction we can all derive, from healthy soils, from feeding our animals and our land in a way which works for them and for us, and for the climate challenges ahead.
“This is the future.”