Over 70 people were in attendance at the ARCZero Farm Walk hosted at John Egerton’s farm in Rosslea, County Fermanagh on Tuesday 21st June. ARCZero is a farmer-led, European Innovation Partnership Project funded by DAERA and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development led by Professor John Gilliland of Devenish is doing just that, by creating a robust baseline of both emissions and carbon stocks on the seven farms of its members.
John Egerton is one of seven farmers involved in the ARCZero project and those in attendance were able to hear of the extensive work carried out by the Egerton’s to mitigate against extreme fertiliser price rises through targeted slurry application using LESSE methods, using slurry bugs, increased accuracy of inorganic Nitrogen application using tractor mounted GPS, applying fertiliser in splits, and the inclusion of white clover into grazing swards through direct drilling which in turn, has seen a reduction of 20% in the amount of inorganic fertiliser sown on the Egerton Farm. The establishment of clover into the existing Perennial Ryegrass grazing swards acts as a longer term solution to the reduction of inorganic fertiliser requirements, which will benefit the Egerton Farm in the future, seeing further decreases in the amount of inorganic Nitrogen applied.
An AgreCalc farm carbon benchmark has been carried out for the Egerton farm and Michaela Tener and Phelim Connolly explained the process and outputs to those on the day. Whilst carbon emissions produced on farm were below average, areas for possible mitigation were highlighted with nutrient management, purchased feed and fertiliser identified as target areas for further emission mitigation.
Patrick Casement, vice chairman and participating farmer in the ARCZero project, informed attendees on measuring soil Carbon through taking 2 GPS soil analyses at 10cm and 30cm depth, which found that the Egerton Farm contains over 8,600 tonnes of carbon stored in the top 30cm of soil or 33,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Alex Higgins of AFBI informed visitors of the methods of measuring Carbon stored in above ground vegetation such as trees and hedgerows which can be measured using LiDAR technology, which found the Egerton Farm stores nearly 400 tonnes of carbon in trees and hedgerows.
Attendees also heard of the Egerton’s trial of the Multispecies Sward (MSS), one of the most westerly fields of MSS trialled in Northern Ireland. Late spring weather brought severe challenges to management of the sward, however William Egerton emphasised the MSS sward had grown the highest Dry Matter yield on farm this year of over 7t/DM/ha compared to the 6t/DM/ha grown by the traditional Perennial Ryegrass pastures. This fact is even more impressive considering the MSS sward only received an application of slurry in the spring, conveying the benefits of MSS upon the reduction of fertiliser inputs. Professor John Gilliland of Devenish Nutrition also emphasised the benefits of MSS to soil health through building soil carbon due to increased root structure, resulting in a 300% increase in earthworm populations, as well as the benefits to animal health through the anthelmintic properties of MSS.
Rachel Cassidy of AFBI concluded the event by informing attendees on the further uses of LiDAR technology to develop runoff risk maps – a key part of the Soil Nutrient Health Scheme currently being rolled out in Northern Ireland. Runoff risk maps can be used to inform on farm decision making when carrying out organic manure applications in areas where surface water runoff from land could result in water pollution.
Further farm walks are planned with the next at the farm of Hugh Harbison, Aghadowey, on 1st September. Full details will be published on the ARCZero website and social media pages in the coming weeks.