Indicators for sustainability ‘crucial for promotion of Irish food’

Teagasc has published a sustainability report demonstrating the economic, environmental and social sustainability of Irish farms.

The ‘2015 Sustainability Report‘ is based on information gathered as part of the Teagasc 2015 National Farm Survey, and uses the data to quantify the performance of Irish farms over time in a number of relevant aspects.

According to the agency, reliable indicators of agricultural sustainability offer a valuable insight into contemporary farming life, but are also crucial for the international promotion of Irish food.

One of the key advantages of the report, as highlighted by Teagasc, is the clear demonstration of the connection between sustainability and farm profitability. This shows clearly how the adoption of new technologies and management practices can reduce environmental impacts and increase overall profitability.

The report notes that the most profitable farms usually have lower agricultural greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk or meat produced, underlining the positive effect of the practices promoted through the Teagasc/Bord Bia Carbon Navigator.

The report also found that the most profitable dairy farms are achieving more milk production for every 1kg of excess nitrogen applied, highlighting the relevance of good farm nutrient management.

In addition, the report emphasises the social sustainability of farms, with indicators relating to quality of life and working conditions.

These indicators highlight where farmers could be at risk of isolation or – where the age of farm families is high – indicate where arranging farm succession might be an issue.

Sustainability

Teagasc’s Dr. Emma Dillon commented on the document, stating: “The report reveals considerable variation between farms, for all sectors and at all levels of profitability.”

Getting more farms on par with the top performers should ensure the continued improvement of overall sustainability of farming in Ireland, Teagasc notes. In addition, this demonstrates that Irish farming is of the high-quality demanded by global food companies and consumers.

Dr. John Lynch, of Teagasc, added: “Recording these sustainability indicators over time is also important to show continued improvements and to monitor the impact of suggested practices and technologies on real farms.”

Teagasc has confirmed that it will continue to develop these indicators to ensure that they remain in line with developing international standards and scientific quality.

According to the agency, work is already in progress on the 2016 edition of the Teagasc National Farm Survey Sustainability Report, which is due to launch at the end of the year.

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