Talamh Beo recently launched its soil biodiversity literacy and enhancement European Innovation Fund (EIP) project on the farm of Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Pippa Hackett.

Talamh Beo’s EIP project is a collaborative cooperative group made up of farmers, scientists and advocates working together to improve food nutritional security on the island of Ireland – literally, from the ground up.

Members of Talamh Beo’s operational group and participants in the EIP were present at the launch.

The EIP, funded by the DAFM and the EU under the Rural Development Programme, has 16 participant farms of different scale, soil type and enterprise, including horticulture, tillage, pasture grazing, woodland and agroforestry.

Participant farms are taking part in a soil course with some of the world’s leading soil experts. They will trial and document technical and physical innovations on their farms, discussing and sharing their experiences on Talamh Beo’s new website, forum and EIP digital platform.

Talamh Beo

The project team unveiled Talamh Beo’s soil EIP platform where farmers and citizens can follow the EIP participants’ soil journeys. It is a timely resource given current feed, fertiliser and fodder concerns under a climate, biodiversity and geopolitical emergency.

The website will act as an open-source hub of information with practical, real-time examples of farmers taking a nature-based approach to improving production and output on their farms.

Sinéad Moran, EIP participant, said that a US farmer and environmental activist put it best when he said: ‘I stand for what I stand on.’

“Soil is the foundation of which our food, fuel and fibre systems rely on. The EIP and digital hub will be a vital resource for farmers who want to build resilience into their farming practices,” Sinéad said.

EIP participants

Platform users can follow participants like Maurice Deasy, farmer, maltster and brewer based in northwest Co. Tipperary.

Deasy has been trialing cover crops, direct drilling, biostimulants and biochar to reduce inputs and improve grain quality as part of his transition to regenerative practices on his farm.

The minister also heard from another participant, Conan Connolly, a suckler and poultry farmer from Monaghan.

Connolly expressed the hope that through participating in this EIP he can experiment to find ways to improve his land, to demonstrate scientifically that building soil naturally is the way forward.

Talamh Beo

Aga Piwowarczyk, the soil scientist taking and analysing samples from the farms, took an auger to the minister’s soil. The team used its senses to assess the soil’s structure and biological activity, before looking at it under the microscope.

Minister Hackett said she was delighted to see first hand, Talamh Beo’s EIP project on soil biodiversity.

“Farmers are becoming more and more aware of the importance of biodiversity, none more so than in the soil beneath their feet,” she said.

“For too long now, we’ve measured soil health in terms of just its chemical components, be that N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), K (potassium) or pH (potential of hydrogen), while its biological components have been largely ignored.

“But times are changing, and we now know that a healthy biome is likely to be the most important aspect of soil quality.

“This project aims to help farmers understand more about the health of their soil, and the peer-to-peer learning element of this project will be most important.”