Over 1,800 farms have received one-to-one tailored advice on how to improve the water quality on their farms through the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme (ASSAP).
Aimed at achieving “good” water quality status on all waterways, the programme has seen 96% of all farmers contacted by ASSAP advisers engage with the programme.
Programme manager Noel Meehan said 1,810 farm assessments were completed across the country between January 2018 and December 2020.
These on-farm assessments identified 10,233 potential issues with farm management or infrastructure, which could be harmful to the quality of water bodies within the farm’s catchment area. That equated to an average of six issues identified per farm assessment.
We do not want to go in all guns blazing
The main issues identified by ASSAP advisers on inspection of farms within priority areas for action were the loss of phosphorus from fields by overground water flow, poor soil fertility planning and the entry of stock into waterways.
The vast majority of farm management changes suggested to counteract the problem were then followed through by the farmers, Meehan told last Friday’s Teagasc Signpost webinar.
“We do not want to go in all guns blazing and then disappear when carrying out the farm assessments. We want to achieve a fundamental change in the water quality around these farms and to maintain these improvements on farms,” Meehan said.
Some 92% of the mitigation actions suggested by ASSAP advisers were agreed upon by the farmer over the course of the programme
Following the farm assessment, the adviser recommends actions which will help the farmer to remediate each of nutrient management issues identified.
These recommendations are confidential and a follow-up farm assessment may be arranged to aid the farmer in implementing their corrective actions.
Some 92% of the mitigation actions suggested by ASSAP advisers were agreed upon by the farmer over the course of the programme and 391 follow-up visits were made by the end of 2020.
Issues and action
While the programme has found that farmers intended to act promptly upon fertiliser advice, other areas of improvement, such as the fencing of streams, moving drinkers away from waterways and increasing slurry capacity, were poorly followed up.
Meehan stated that these areas where advice was followed less tended to be recommendations which required farm investment
Some 84% of farmers advised to change fertiliser plans in line with the weather took the advice on board.
A smaller 70% of the farmers recommended to increase slurry and manure capacity on-farm have not begun to implement the changes advised under ASSAP.
Meehan stated that these areas where advice was followed less tended to be recommendations which required farm investment.
The second ASSAP interim report is expected to be due for publication soon.
What is the ASSAP programme?
The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme (ASSAP) is a water quality advisory service overseen by Teagasc and supported by a number of industry and agency stakeholders.
The programme employs 20 Teagasc advisers and 10 advisers from dairy co-operatives, allowing farmers within problem areas to avail of free guidance on farm nutrient management. The programme has the aim of achieving “good status” in water quality for all waterways.