An update from the Guinness regenerative agriculture pilot, which was launched last February, reports that 42 farmers are taking part who supply grain to the drinks industry.

This takes in approximately 1,400ac of land (being monitored) across six counties - Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Tipperary and Wexford.

One of the aims of the project this year was to increase the uptake of cover crop planting.

Over 7t of cover crop seed was planted as part of the pilot from July to September to increase biodiversity on farms, as well as protecting the soil and water quality.

Digital management

A digital management system, as well as remote sensing technology, will be used to monitor progress on farms. Soil testing is also set to be carried out.

The next major step in the project will be to create baseline measurements on farms for soil, crop and farm performance. Soil sampling is under way and a carbon footprint will be calculated for the crops produced on farms.

“This pilot is the first such programme being implemented by Diageo. The learnings and outcomes will help inform other potential opportunities, not just in Ireland, but further afield,” global head of regenerative agriculture, Diageo, Vanessa Maire stated.

"We are looking forward to reviewing the baseline data, which will help identify opportunities for reducing the carbon emissions of barley production in Ireland, in line with Food Vision 2030 and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2021."

Challenging conditions

Eugene Ryan, a Laois farmer taking part in the project, commented: “The 2022 season included unprecedented and extremely challenging growing conditions for Irish farmers, with crops experiencing extremes of temperature and moisture stress.

"I’m pleased to have the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge with other farmers as we embark on this journey together as part of the pilot to test and trial regenerative agriculture methods for the conditions in Ireland.”

The pilot is part of Diageo’s 10-year sustainability action plan and will contribute to the commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its direct operations and a 50% reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030.

Soil specialists Steve Cann and Neill Fuller are working on this project with Diageo and they joined the Irish Farmers Journal's Tillage Podcast recently.

You can listen here.