Last week, Teagasc unveiled its new Signpost Programme – which it describes as its proposal to “prompt climate action by Irish farmer”. But what exactly will it consist of?

According to the agricultural authority, the Signpost Programme will be a multi-annual campaign to prompt climate action by all Irish farmers, and achieve early progress in reducing gaseous emissions from Irish agriculture.

This, Teagasc says, will be done while also improving water quality, maintaining – and in some cases improving – biodiversity and creating more profitable and sustainable farming enterprises.

Also Read: Teagasc Signpost Programme launched to spearhead farmer climate action

It will also act as a test bed for on-farm carbon sequestration measurements so that this can, in time, be taken into account by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the national Greenhouse Gas inventory.

The Signpost Programme will be collaborative, led by Teagasc and including all relevant industry partners and state bodies such as Bord Bia, the agency says.

Objectives of the programme will include the following:
  • To lead and support the transition of Irish farming towards more sustainable farming systems;
  • To reduce agricultural emissions, specifically: to reduce GHG emissions to the range 17.5 – 19.0 MtCO2 eq. by 2030; and to reduce ammonia emissions by 5% below 2005 levels, currently estimated at 107.5 kT NH3, also by 2030;
  • To reduce other negative environmental impacts of agriculture (specifically, to improve water quality and to improve biodiversity).

According to Teagasc, there will be two elements to the programme.

Central to the programme will be a network of Signpost Farms, which will act as demonstration farms for the programme and sites for carbon sequestration measurements.

Signpost Farms

These, the authority says, will “point the way forward towards climate smart farming, and will be central to the second element, the Signpost Advisory campaign, which will engage with all farmers and support them to move towards more sustainable farming systems”.

In terms of details on this, the Signpost Farms will: showcase technologies to reduce agri emissions; act as “hubs” for the advisory campaign; and create a network of farms where carbon sequestration in grassland and hedgerows can be examined.

This, as Teagasc director Prof. Gerry Boyle told AgriLand in July, will be key for proving that “under our grasslands we have a phenomenal storage of carbon”.

The Signpost Advisory campaign will mobilise all advisers – including Teagasc, private and industry consultants – to engage with all farmers, using a combination of channels, in climate action.

Teagasc says the programme will be designed with four guiding principles in mind:
  • To involve all of the agricultural industry around this initiative in a collaborative approach to bringing about behaviour change;
  • To build on the existing knowledge base and current industry initiatives, while avoiding duplication;
  • To involve farmers, and other stakeholders, in the process – using a living lab co-design approach to ensure that the solutions for climate action are fit for purpose, meet farmers’ needs and are usable; an
  • To ensure that farming systems are future proofed.

Finally, while the need for climate action has been the stimulus for the initiative, the Signpost programme will adopt a holistic approach to sustainability i.e. addressing all four elements of sustainability – economic, social, environment and innovation, Teagasc says.