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- PublicationProven Science versus Farmer PerceptionResource use efficiency is at the core of sustainable farming practices for the future of agriculture. Given the abolition of quotas in the EU and the increasing demands for food globally food producers are faced with a challenge to increase production in an environmentally sustainable manner. This paper examines the adoption of a suite of grassland management practices by Irish dairy farmers which are proven to improved grass utilisation. The Technology Acceptance Model is applied to a nationally representative sample of specialist Irish dairy farmers to investigate the use of belief based variables and traditional socioeconomic and demographic variables in predicting intention to use six grassland management practices.
- PublicationHigh rates of regular soil testing by Irish dairy farmers but nationally soil fertility is declining: Factors influencing national and voluntary adoptionParadoxically, high rates of soil testing by Irish dairy farmers coexist with declining national soil fertility levels. This study investigates the anomaly further through identifying the characteristics of farms and farmers who regularly test soil in terms of policy, education, financial capacity, networks, and land management practices. The study draws on data from a nationally representative sample of 231 specialist Irish dairy holdings. As policy mandates the use of soil tests for some farmers, a sub-sample of nonmandated farms is analysed separately. Findings comparing testers and non-testers show all farmers testing their soil on a regular basis are younger, have larger farms and herds, have larger gross output, have greater expenditure on nitrogen, and are more profitable, compared to farmers who do not. The analysis also shows nationally there is no significant difference in fertilizer and concentrate expenditure per hectare between soil test users and non-users, also reflected in the sub-sample. The logit regression analysis of the full sample suggests policy and extension programmes have a significant effect on adoption, however given national falling soil fertility trends farmers may not be using the results to achieve optimal outcomes. For the voluntary sub-sample farmers who attended part-time education courses and improved farmland through reseeding are more likely to regularly soil test. These findings are important in the context of the somewhat contradictory environmentally-focused and productivity-focused policy instruments that drive regular soil testing behaviour and the anomaly of high rates of soil testing with declining national soil fertility levels.
- PublicationEstablishing national benchmarks of N and P balances and use efficiencies on Irish grassland farmsImproving grassland agriculture sustainability requires minimising nutrient balance (NB) surpluses and increasing nutrient use efficiencies (NUE). To set targets for improved farm nutrient management, benchmarks were established by farm sector and production intensity using 1,379 nationally representative farms from the Irish National Farm Survey. Annual farm-gate NBs (kg ha-1) and NUEs (%) for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) were calculated from import/export data from 2008 to 2015, inclusive. Quantile regression analysis and percentile rankings were used to identify benchmark farms with the lowest surpluses per production intensity (kg N or P exported ha-1), highest NUEs and highest gross margins (Euro ha-1). Large differences in NBs between farms of the same sector and production intensity indicate considerable potential for improvements. For example, benchmark dairy farms maximised productivity (median export 55 kg N ha-1), NUE (median 31%) and gross margins (median Euro 2,593 ha-1) whilst keeping surpluses low (median 124 kg N ha-1) via lower fertiliser and concentrate feed imports and higher stocking densities (median 2.1 livestock units ha-1). Using benchmarks as targets to encourage improvements in nutrient management could help farms achieve this potential and assist in achieving national objectives for sustainable agricultural production.
- PublicationBenchmarking P and N use efficiency in Irish farm systems to motivate practice changeAgriculture faces the challenge of achieving sustainable, profitable production while maintaining environmental quality. In Ireland, for example, ambitious national growth targets for agricultural output have been set but, at the same time, Ireland, like other countries, must meet international environmental obligations in terms of water quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- PublicationAgriBenchmark: Benchmarking Sustainable Nutrient Management on Irish Farms. EPA Research Report No.274AgriBenchmark explored the possibilities for benchmarking of nutrient management performance on Irish farms. Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) data (2008–2015; 1446 farms) was used to characterise and explore the potential for improvement of farm nutrient management performance and resultant aspects of environmental and economic sustainability through the derivation of three key performance indicators.
- PublicationBenchmarking Nutrient Use on Irish Farms 2012-2015Methods of nutrient accounting are used to quantitatively measure the relationship between nutrient inputs and outputs representing indicators of pressure on the environment. In agriculture these environmental pressures come predominantly from two nutrient inputs, Nitrogen and Phosphorous potentially presenting losses to the atmosphere and the aquatic environment. Various methods of calculating such losses are established in the literature this paper identifies methods of nutrient accounting at farm-level. Through a scored evaluation of six models nutrient balances is identified as the most appropriate tool for monitoring nutrient flow at farm-level. Evaluation is based on two criteria the reliability and availability of data and the usability of indicators for the farmer and the policy maker. Using National Farm Survey data from 2012-2015 this paper presents nutrient balances and nutrient use efficiency indicators on Irish farms and benchmarks economic performance within systems. Findings indicate the most intensive dairy systems have highest levels of nutrient inputs relative to the other farming systems but lower levels of nutrient use efficiency. Nutrient use on-farms present an environmental risk but also an economic cost and so benchmarking farms reflects nutrient use in terms of the economic and environmental impact. Findings show the trends in environmental indicators across all systems and economic performance per unit of product for dairy farms with the best performing dairy farms also having the lowest N surplus per kilogram of milk solids.
- PublicationBenchmarking farm P and N management to improve agricultural sustainabilityAgriculture faces the challenge of achieving sustainable, profitable production while maintaining environmental quality. Conventional agricultural production is highly dependent on nutrient inputs of P and N in fertilizer and feed and poor use efficiency of these resources is associated with losses to the environment and impacts on water quality, GHG emissions, air quality, acidification and biodiversity. The AgriBenchmark project explored the possibilities for benchmarking of nutrient management performance on Irish farms.