A Teagasc report into water quality and farming in six catchment areas has showed positive results.

The report on phase one of the Teagasc Agricultural Catchments Programme was launched by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Tom Hayes TD, this afternoon. ‘The Agricultural Catchments Programme is a flagship programme supported by my department and that is adding immensely to our knowledge of environmentally sustainable food production systems,” he said.

Teagasc manager of the programme Ger Shortle said: “This report contains encouraging results for Irish farming and the environment. The streams monitored in all six catchments in the Programme met the drinking water standard with nitrate levels well below the limits for human health. Average groundwater nitrate levels were also within drinking water limits.”

Prof Phil Jordan, principal scientist on the Programme noted: “Very rigorous scientific techniques were employed which monitored both nitrogen and phosphorus in catchment soils and different water bodies. Part of the work indicated that water quality had showed recent signs of improvement, likely due to the adoption of better management practices by farmers, but that there was a continuing need for monitoring.”

The significant challenges in meeting future water quality goals and the production targets set in Food Harvest 2020 are acknowledged in the report.  Improving fertiliser and manure management on farms is a strategy to address these challenges that is identified in the report. This type of management change can deliver cost savings for the farmers and water quality benefits, it added.

Shortle thanked the farmers in the six catchments for their active participation and support which proved crucial to the success of the programme. “Farmers in the catchments have embraced the challenges of producing high quality food while protecting the environment, both essential goals in the development of the food sector,” he said.

The aims of the Agricultural Catchments Programme is protecting and improving water quality and supporting the production of high-quality food. The programme is operated by Teagasc with funding from the Department of Agriculture. The six agricultural catchments are Cork, Wexford, Louth, Monaghan and Mayo. It was established to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the Good Agricultural Practice measures that Irish farmers are required to implement under the Nitrates Directive. The phase one report details the outcomes of the programme over its first four-year phase and summarises the results from published scientific papers.

The full report can be downloaded at http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2013/2000/ACP_Phase1_Report.pdf

Pictured: Dave Behan, Chief Agricultural Inspector, DAFM,  Tom Hayes TD, Minister of State, Department of  Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ger Shortle, Manager Agricultural Catchments Programme, Teagasc, Prof. Phil Jordan, University of Ulster, and Bill Callanan , DAFM at the launch of “Agricultural Catchments Programme Phase 1 Report”.