Every now and then Teagasc undertakes a project which, in a very straightforward way, demonstrates why the organisation continues to play such an important role at the very heart of Irish agriculture.

The latest example comes in the shape of the new Teagasc Manual on Drainage and Soil Management. Edited by Mark Moore and having the imprint of 19 named contributors it is, as they would say up North, a “wee gem”.

Effective soil conservation goes to the very heart of the management practises carried out on almost every farm. By its very nature the subject can be very technical and multifaceted.

The good news, however, is that the new guide takes a totally innovative approach to these subject areas and communicates the associated themes in a very clear, concise and easy to understand manner. Moreover, the high-quality graphics, which feature throughout the publication, are a perfect complement to the words from the contributors – who obviously know their specific subject areas in total detail.

The step-by-step approach used by the Teagasc team in taking the reader through from the fundamentals of soil structure, to soil management and then on to the various drainage options works a treat.  Significantly, the manual also contains a detailed analysis of the economic benefits to be accrued from an effective drainage programme.

It wouldn’t be too strong to say that the new manual is a must read for all progressive farmers. The same principle holds for those agricultural contractors who specialise in drainage work.  And, of course the new publication would also make a more than significant contribution to the reading list compiled by every agricultural student in the country.

It is significant that the manual has been published at a time when the need for improved farm drainage has never been greater in every area of the country. Even soils in the best farming areas have suffered in the wake of the monsoon-like conditions that we have all endured since 2007.

The fundamental reality is that good soil structure amplifies many times over the beneficial impact of all crop inputs. This is driven by the ability of plants to establish stronger and healthier root systems.

Mind you, drainage work doesn’t come cheap. So perhaps Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney might give some thought to introducing some form of drainage grant scheme in the new Rural Development Programme.