Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
  • Publication
    Estimated nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizer use on multispecies grassland compared to monocultures
    Grassland agriculture faces increasing demands in terms of sustainability; economic, social, and environmental. Soils are critical to sustainable agriculture, in terms of maintaining soil fertility and quality, protecting water quality and mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There is evidence to suggest that greater sward diversity may have benefits in this regard. We report results from SmartGrass; a three year field study at two sites in Ireland investigating grass sward diversity along a gradient from perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) monoculture to grass-legume mixes to more complex grass-legume-herb mixes of up to nine species. Results reported include estimates of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from fertiliser nitrogen (N), soil temperature and moisture conditions, plant-available soil N, changes in soil organic carbon (C) and plant-available phosphorus (P). Estimated direct N2O emissions from N fertiliser (g N2O-N t DM-1 ha-1 yr-1) decreased from 146 for the monoculture at 250 kg fertiliser N ha-1 yr-1 to 35 for the monoculture at 90 kg fertiliser N ha-1 yr-1, to approximately 16 for the grass-legume and grass-legume-herb mixes, also at 90 kg fertiliser N ha-1 yr-1. This was due to a combination of the grass-clover and mixed swards maintaining high DM yields at low fertiliser N input, and the fact that the fertiliser N for these treatments was applied entirely as urea. These results indicate significant potential for more diverse swards to mitigate GHG emissions from fertiliser N use in grassland agriculture.
  • Publication
    Regional and farm system drivers of avian biodiversity within agriculture ecosystems
    Farm-wide bird surveys were carried out on 119 grass-based farms located in three separate regions in Ireland during the winter and breeding seasons. Data relating to livestock production system (dairy or non-dairy) and participation in the Irish agrienvironment scheme (AES) at the time, the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme, were collected. GLMMs were used to establish the factors influencing bird populations during the winter and breeding season. Region and farming system had significant effects on avian biodiversity and there were frequently greater numbers on more intensively managed dairy farms, compared with less intensive non-dairy farms. AES participation had no significant effect on bird populations. Our findings demonstrate a clear influence of region and farm system on avian biodiversity, and suggest that the greater resource availability in more intensive farm systems may actually be beneficial for certain components of farmland biodiversity.
  • Publication
    Source partitioning using N2O isotopomers and soil WFPS to establish dominant N2O production pathways from different pasture sward compositions
    Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted from agricultural soils and is influenced by nitrogen (N) fertiliser management and weather and soil conditions. Source partitioning N2O emissions related to management practices and soil conditions could suggest effective mitigation strategies. Multispecies swards can maintain herbage yields at reduced N fertiliser rates compared to grass monocultures and may reduce N losses to the wider environment. A restricted-simplex centroid experiment was used to measure daily N2O fluxes and associated isotopomers from eight experimental plots (7.8 m2) post a urea-N fertiliser application (40 kg N ha−1). Experimental pastures consisted of differing proportions of grass, legume and forage herb represented by perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), white clover (Trifolium repens) and ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata), respectively. N2O isotopomers were measured using a cavity ring down spectroscopy (CRDS) instrument adapted with a small sample isotope module (SSIM) for the analysis of gas samples ≤20 mL. Site preference (SP = δ15Nα – δ15Nβ) and δ15Nbulk ((δ15Nα + δ15Nβ) / 2) values were used to attribute N2O production to nitrification, denitrification or a mixture of both nitrification and denitrification over a range of soil WFPS (%). Daily N2O fluxes ranged from 8.26 to 86.86 g N2O-N ha−1 d−1. Overall, 34.2% of daily N2O fluxes were attributed to nitrification, 29.0% to denitrification and 36.8% to a mixture of both. A significant diversity effect of white clover and ribwort plantain on predicted SP and δ15Nbulk indicated that the inclusion of ribwort plantain may decrease N2O emission through biological nitrification inhibition under drier soil conditions (31%–75% WFPS). Likewise, a sharp decline in predicted SP indicates that increased white clover content could increase N2O emissions associated with denitrification under elevated soil moisture conditions (43%–77% WFPS). Biological nitrification inhibition from ribwort plantain inclusion in grassland swards and management of N fertiliser source and application timing to match soil moisture conditions could be useful N2O mitigation strategies.
      115Scopus© Citations 11
  • Publication
    Prevalence and distribution of paratuberculosis (johne's disease) in cattle herds in ireland
    (Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.), 2009) ; ; ;
    A simple random survey was conducted in Ireland during 2005 to estimate the ELISA-prevalence of paratuberculosis, commonly called Johne's disease (JD), in the cattle population. Serum samples were collected from all 20,322 females/breeding bulls over 12 months-of-age in 639 herds. All samples were tested using a commercially available absorbed ELISA. The overall prevalence of infected herds, based on the presence of at least one ELISA-positive animal, was 21.4% (95% CI 18.4%-24.9%). Herd prevalence levels amongst dairy herds (mean 31.5%; 95% CI: 24.6%, 39.3%) was higher than among beef herds (mean 17.9%; 95% CI: 14.6%-21.8%). However, the animal level prevalence was similar. The true prevalence among all animals tested, was calculated to be 2.86% (95%CI: 2.76, 2.97) and for animals >= 2 yrs, it was 3.30% (95%CI: 3.17, 3.43). For animals in beef herds, true prevalence was 3.09% (95%CI: 2.93, 3.24), and for those in dairy herds, 2.74% (95%CI: 2.59, 2.90). The majority of herds had only one ELISA-positive infected animal. Only 6.4% (95% CI 4.7%-8.7%) of all herds had more than one ELISA-positive infected animal; 13.3% (CI 8.7%-19.7%) of dairy herds ranging from two to eight ELISA-positive infected animals; and, 3.9% beef herds (CI 2.4%-6.2%) ranging from two to five ELISA-positive infected animals. The true prevalence of herds infected and shedding Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis is estimated to be 9.5% for all herd types; 20.6% for dairy herds; and 7.6% for beef herds. If ELISA positive animals <2-years-of-age are excluded, the true herd prevalene reduces to: 9.3% for all herd types; 19.6% for dairy herds; and 6.3% for beef herds based on a test specificity (Sp) of 99.8% and test sensitivity (Se) (i.e., ability to detect culture-positive, infected animals shedding at any level) of 27.8-28.9%.
      399Scopus© Citations 49
  • Publication
    Different bioindicators measured at different spatial scales vary in their response to agricultural intensity
    Ecologically, potential bioindicator taxa operate at different scales within agricultural ecosystems, and thereby provide a means to investigate the influence of changing management practice on biological diversity at different scales within the agro-ecosystem. Surveys of grassland plant species at field level, parasitoid Hymenoptera at the field and farm scale, and bird populations and habitats at farm scale were carried out on 119 grass-based farms across three regions in the Republic of Ireland. In addition, habitat richness and aquatic macroinvertebrates were quantified at landscape scale. Agricultural intensity on the surveyed farms was quantified by mean farm stocking rate, calculated as livestock units per ha (LU/ha), and generalised linear mixed models used to evaluate relationships between stocking rate and the incidence of chosen bioindicator groups. Field scale bioindicators (plant species richness and parasitoid taxon richness and abundance) were negatively associated with mean farm stocking rate. Over much of its observed range, mean farm stocking rate was positively associated with total bird species richness and abundance, and the species richness and abundance of farmland bird indicator species recorded in the winter season. However, these relationships were quadratic, and above a relatively high upper limit of 2.5–3.5 LU/ha, further increase in farm stocking rate had a negative influence. Results demonstrate that different bioindicators measured at different spatial scales vary in their response to agricultural intensity. The lack of a consistent bioindicator response to farm stocking rate suggests that within predominantly farmed regions, maximising biodiversity requires a careful targeting and monitoring with bioindicator taxa that are informative of influences at relevant operational scales. The insights provided may then be much more informative for the design and implementation of agri-environment measures that maximise biodiversity within farmed landscapes.
      967Scopus© Citations 22
  • Publication
    A novel method for quantifying overdispersion in count data with application to farmland birds
    The statistical modelling of count data permeates the discipline of ecology. Such data often exhibit overdispersion compared with a standard Poisson distribution, so that the variance of the counts is greater than that of the mean. Whereas modelling to reveal the effects of explanatory variables on the mean is commonplace, overdispersion is generally regarded as a nuisance parameter to be accounted for and subsequently ignored. Instead, we propose a method that models the overdispersion as a biologically interesting property of a data set and show how novel inference is provided as a result. We adapted the double hierarchical generalized linear model approach to create an easily extendible model structure that quantifies the influence of explanatory variables on the overdispersion of count data, and apply it to farmland birds. These data were from a study within Irish agricultural ecosystems, in which total bird species abundance and the abundance of farmland indicator species were compared on dairy and non-dairy farms in the winter and breeding seasons. In general, overdispersion in bird counts was greater on dairy farms than on non-dairy farms, and for total bird numbers, overdispersion was greatest on dairy farms in winter. Our code is fitted using the Bayesian package Rstan, and we make all code and data available in a GitHub repository. Within a Bayesian framework, this approach facilitates a meaningful quantification of the effects of categorical explanatory variables on any response variable with a tendency to overdispersion that has a meaningful biological or ecological explanation.
      203Scopus© Citations 2
  • Publication
    Sward composition and soil moisture conditions affect nitrous oxide emissions and soil nitrogen dynamics following urea-nitrogen application
    Increased emissions of N2O, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), from agricultural soils is a major concern for the sustainability of grassland agriculture. Emissions of N2O are closely associated with the rates and forms of N fertilisers applied as well as prevailing weather and soil conditions. Evidence suggests that multispecies swards require less fertiliser N input, and may cycle N differently, thus reducing N loss to the environment. This study used a restricted simplex-centroid experimental design to investigate N2O emissions and soil N cycling following application of urea-N (40 kg N ha−1) to eight experimental swards (7.8 m2) with differing proportions of three plant functional groups (grass, legume, herb) represented by perennial ryegrass (PRG, Lolium perenne), white clover (WC, Trifolium repens) and ribwort plantain (PLAN, Plantago lanceolata), respectively. Swards were maintained under two contrasting soil moisture conditions to examine the balance between nitrification and denitrification. Two N2O peaks coincided with fertiliser application and heavy rainfall events; 13.4 and 17.7 g N2O-N ha−1 day−1 (ambient soil moisture) and 39.8 and 86.9 g N2O-N ha−1 day−1 (wet soil moisture). Overall, cumulative N2O emissions post-fertiliser application were higher under wet soil conditions. Increasing legume (WC) proportions from 0% to 60% in multispecies swards resulted in model predicted N2O emissions increasing from 22.3 to 96.2 g N2O-N ha−1 (ambient soil conditions) and from 59.0 to 219.3 g N2O-N ha−1 (wet soil conditions), after a uniform N application rate. Soil N dynamics support denitrification as the dominant source of N2O especially under wet soil conditions. Significant interactions of PRG or WC with PLAN on soil mineral N concentrations indicated that multispecies swards containing PLAN potentially inhibit nitrification and could be a useful mitigation strategy for N loss to the environment from grassland agriculture.
      79Scopus© Citations 14
  • Publication
    Interactions between livestock systems and biodiversity in South-East Ireland
    Botanical and arthropod surveys at field level, and bird counts within field boundaries were undertaken on the same random sample of 50 grass-based farms in SE Ireland. Additional data relating to farm system, farm-level nutrient inputs, stocking rates, and participation (or otherwise) in the Irish Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) were collated. Generalized linear models (GLM) showed that farm system was a predominant influence explaining observed biological diversity. Both sward plant and arthropod diversity were greater on non-dairy (drystock) farms, but total arthropod abundance was greater on dairy farm swards. Both the breeding bird abundance and species richness were significantly greater in field boundaries on dairy, compared with non-dairy farms. These insights have relevance to the debate regarding the most effective use of public expenditure on agri-environment policy, and suggest that such incentive schemes need to become more clearly customised to realise the conservation potential of different farming systems.
      1148Scopus© Citations 23
  • Publication
    An assessment of bird species within Irish agricultural landscapes using the Field Boundary Evaluation and Grading System.
    Capsule The Field Boundary Evaluation and Grading System (FBEGS) is a useful predictor of bird populations found in field boundaries located in southeast Ireland. Aims To assess the potential of FBEGS to evaluate the ecological quality of field boundaries in agricultural ecosystems and as a tool for the measurement of bird populations within field boundaries. Methods Surveys of bird populations were made in selected field boundaries on 50 farms in southeast Ireland in winter and during the breeding season. FBEGS surveys were also carried out on field boundaries to assess ecological quality. glms were fitted to assess the utility of the FBEGS Index as a predictor of bird populations. Results The FBEGS Index was an effective predictor of bird populations in the breeding season, but had limited use in predicting bird populations in winter. Within the overall FBEGS Index, the Associated Features score was a good predictor for populations in both the winter and breeding seasons. In addition, the Boundary Structural score of the field boundary was also an accurate predictor of birds in the breeding season. Conclusion The FBEGS Index has high potential for predicting the effect that changes in the farmed landscape will have on bird populations.
      414Scopus© Citations 7