A Laois farmer who is currently working on a five year project on sustainability and biodiversity said he has had a hugely positive reaction from tillage and dairy farmers who have viewed the project.

Pat Byrne, who farms part-time at Maganey in southeast Laois as well as running a consultancy in a broad range of biodiversity plans, said he always had a great interest in biodiversity and has been trialling different types of biodiversity crops for the last 17 years.

Having met with a number of ecologists over the years, Pat initiated his wildflower meadow trail with funding from the Agri-Ecology Unit of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Farm Plan Scheme.

He is showcasing innovative methods of biodiversity with 3ac of spring barley encompassed by 4m of wildflower meadow margins.

“I was asked by the NPWS senior ecologists to come up with innovative measures in advance of the next common agricultural policy (CAP) programme, which will see a significant proportion of funding going towards biodiversity actions,” said Pat.

Pat’s biodiversity project

With assistance from Colm McEvoy Pitch Maintenance – which planted hedging and sowed the back of all the terraces at O’Moore Park GAA grounds in Portlaoise with wildflower meadow, along with about half an acre of ground beside the centre of excellence and on the path verges at the back entrance – Pat planted a large amount of wildflower margins on his farm last May.

The project includes wild bird covers and a beetle bank with new hedgerows. Chemicals and fertiliser are not used.

Two weeks ago, a site visit by an expert scientist estimated 2,500 bees present, native and others, on the pollinator mixes which are specifically designed for purpose.

“One of the significant factors is the cleanliness and quality of the spring barley. To date, the combined actions applied are delivering positive results that have the potential to address sustainability in various agricultural enterprises,” said Pat, who will monitor the project over winter.

“Results can be achieved with any enterprise and the local tillage and dairy farmers that have seen the project absolutely love the ideology and the principles of it.

“The research and analysis will happen over time. It’s all about science and data.”

Meanwhile, Colm McEvoy is busy working with county councils, Tidy Towns organisations, sports clubs and other organisations to provide biodiverse ecological solutions for their green spaces. His specialised equipment provides the services from start to finish, preparing the ground, sowing the seeds, maintaining and harvesting.