Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
  • Publication
    AgriBenchmark: Benchmarking Sustainable Nutrient Management on Irish Farms. EPA Research Report No.274
    (Environmental Protection Agency, 2019-04-18) ; ; ; ;
    AgriBenchmark 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.
  • Publication
    Benchmarking Nutrient Use on Irish Farms 2012-2015
    Methods 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.
  • Publication
    Benchmarking farm P and N management to improve agricultural sustainability
    Agriculture 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.
  • Publication
    Establishing national benchmarks of N and P balances and use efficiencies on Irish grassland farms
    Improving 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.
  • Publication
    Improving national mapping of critical source areas of phosphorus and nitrogen losses in Irish agricultural catchments to support policy
    Policymakers, farm advisors and water agencies require up-to-date national maps of critical source areas (CSAs) of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) losses from agricultural land to improve catchment management decisions. The DiffuseTools project aimed to achieve this in Ireland by updating the existing Catchment Characterisation Tool and sub-model NCYCLE_IRL, which predicts environmental losses of N and P from the farm via surface runoff, leaching, denitrification and volatilisation. Updates included (i) using improved national maps of farm-scale source loadings as inputs, (ii) sub-field scale modelling of surface transport risk using soil topographic indices derived from 1 m and 5 m NEXTMap digital elevation models (DEMs), (iii) modelling hydrological disconnectivity from microtopography (HSA Index) and reinfiltration (SCIMAP), (iv) improving the national ditch and stream channel network used by the model by DEM extraction, and (v) using SCIMAP to improve predictions of erosion risk. The improved national source loading maps included mean nationally weighted farm-gate N and P imports (fertilizer, feed and livestock) and balance surpluses (kg/ha) calculated for each stocking rate and soil group (land use potential) category within each sector type (dairy, mixed livestock, suckler cattle, non-suckler cattle, sheep and tillage), using annual Teagasc National Farm Survey data (2008-15). Furthermore, updated national maps of soil P and atmospheric N and P deposition inputs were also used within the national source loading maps to improve model performance. National CSA maps for N and P for each pathway were then produced and evaluated using water quality monitoring data and field observations from the Environmental Protection Agency and Teagasc Agricultural Catchments Programme. These maps will be able to support sustainable intensification by informing farm and catchment management decisions such as where to cost effectively target mitigation measures to reduce environmental losses, where to distribute nutrient surpluses (to non-CSAs in nutrient deficit), and improving functional land management.