‘Management of grasslands key to combating weather volatility’

Are we living through a period of increased weather volatility and if so how will farmers adapt? This is the main theme of today’s Teagasc conference on agriculture and future weather patterns.

Speaking at the event today Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle said: “We are living through a period of more intense volatility in the weather. Farmers have adapted over a long period of time to patterns of volatility. The question if we are living through a period of increased volatility that requires new systems and adaptations?”

The commented: “Farmers are well used to adapting to the volatility of our weather systems.”

“Internationally in terms of weather a lot of focus is on the tillage sector naturally. But here in Ireland the focus has to be on grasslands and the managing of those grasslands in all its dimensions. We need to understand how these systems need to be adapted in the face of increased volatility,” he said.

According to Prof Boyle: “This year has been truly extraordinary. Up to May of this year we were facing a catastrophic situation on many farms not only on wet soil farms. There were extraordinary variations across the county. Since May it has been equally extraordinary in terms of weather.”

He outlined that climate change models predict that mean summer/winter temperature could increase by 1.5 to two degrees by 2070. “We know also that precipitation is expected to increase by on average 15 per cent with a decrease in summer,” he added.

Prof Boyle continued: “In aggregate terms these developments my lead to an increase in productivity. What is critical though is the significant challenges emerging with that relatively benign outcome. In relation to seasonal patterns and enhanced weather volatility, the prediction is that extreme events are likely to be substantially increase in frequency to a one in five year occurrence.

“Resilience is the key word, which is the capacity of the system to survive extreme weather shocks.

“While we have had an excellent summer and autumn. What was particular noticeable and of huge concern to farmers was the impact off the bad weather on heavy soils.”

Prof Boyle noted: “For many years and it has been a regret, this is an area hasn’t been researched in Teagasc. We have managed to put together a small programme with the assistance of some retired colleagues to look at mitigation strategies on heavy soil farms.”

On the fodder crisis, Prof Boyle said: “Something that we have neglected is the conservation of fodder both quality and quantity. There is huge amount of research in the organisation built up over the years. We found in the past year particularly it was so important to draw on this experience.”

AgriLand is reporting live from the Teagasc Future Weather, Future Farming Conference 

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