Agricultural projects scoop awards in the BT young scientist
Una Sinnott caught up with some of the BT Young Scientist winners after the awards ceremony on Friday evening.

The Friendly Farmer app

Colaiste Treasa secondary school Cork claimed this year’s school of the year award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. Two girls who attend the award-winning school certainly played a huge role in their school’s success as they claimed a special award and a group category award for their project about a farm app that helps rural farmers interact with one another more. Maeve O’Connor and Aoidhe Sheill created the Friendly Farmer app after they surveyed people living in rural Ireland and realised how secluded some farmers can be as they go about their daily duties.

The prototype of the app allows farmers to communicate in local and national discussion groups, access mart updates and get contact numbers for farm services in their area. A dating profile also features in the app. The girls conducted research which led them to believe that "farmers are happier when they are married". They are seeking sponsorship to finalise their hope of launching the app on to the market. This ambition should be much more achievable after claiming the Hewlet Packard enterprise award and the first-place rosette for the Junior group in the Social and Behavioural category.

Tractor safe lock

The ABP-sponsored farm safety award was awarded to Jack Nagle of Killorglin Community College, Kerry. His Tractor Safe Lock initiative helped reduce danger on a farm as the handbrake on a tractor would automatically be put in place even if a farmer forgot to do so. The enthusiastic junior student hopes that this sudden engagement of the hand break will save lives on farms throughout Ireland. Farm safety was featured throughout many projects in this year’s event in the RDS and there’s a hope that the welcomed trend will see the figure of farm deaths reduce across the nation.

Get rid of the mess when marking sheep

Twins Mary and Sarah Murphy from Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Mayo, claimed the senior group third place rosette for the technology category during the awards ceremony. The sisters combined their passion for farming and technology to "get rid of the mess when marking sheep". Instead of opening tins or spraying paint, the girls created a single-handed gun that proves extremely convenient when putting fluid onto the back of sheep to brand them.

The product is on the market for €60 and available to purchase but the girls intend on broadening their marketing abilities and making their product more accessible nationwide. A bright future in marketing seems imaginable for the determined Murphy sisters.

The cures and folkways of the travelling community

Third year student Ian McDonagh from Merlin College, Co Galway, had a unique junior individual project in the social and behavioural sciences category of this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. The charming junior student, who is also a very proud member of the travelling community, created a project on the cures and folkways of the travelling community. This scientific investigation saw McDonagh communicate and record historic traditions that are associated with the travelling community.

His findings were that the cures in question are not being passed on from one generation to the next and therefore they are becoming less popular and used within Ireland. This caused great concern with Ian and he plans to write a book in the near future to preserve the precious folkways of his people. The cures that featured in McDonagh's project include those that are in association with holy wells, mountains such as Croagh Patrick, people such as the "seventh son of the seventh son", herbs such as the St Patrick leaf and religious artefacts. Ian captured the imagination of the public with his eye-catching display. His visual efforts also impressed the judges as he was awarded the Jack Restan Displays Award during the awards ceremony.

Read more

Full coverage: 2017 BT Young Scientist

'Alternatives' to sucklers needed – Boyle
Low-income suckler farming is facing the twin threat of Brexit and climate change, with farmers considering other options, Teagasc director Gerry Boyle has said.

Speaking on RTE's Countrywide show on Saturday, the head of Teagasc raised question marks over the future of suckler farming beyond next month's immediate Brexit threat.

"There has to be compensation in the event of a no-deal, because the potential implications would be just catastrophic," Boyle said, describing as "good news" current discussions on farmer compensation for up to three years.

"Beef farm incomes would drop by around half," he warned. "In the longer term, of course, the real worry is that the British would revert to their traditional cheap food policy."

Such a shift in the UK market, which imports over half of Ireland's beef production, would force deep change.

Even on our research farms, it is still very challenging to make any kind of a decent margin

"If you look at the suckling sector, which is a hugely challenged sector, even on our research farms with the best technical applications, it is still very challenging to make any kind of a decent margin," he said.

"On the fattening side, certainly if you factor in subsidies and direct payments, there are some producers doing very well."

Boyle accepted broadcaster Damien O'Reilly's suggestion that suckler farmers should look for "alternatives" past the proposed three-year Brexit compensation scheme.

He said some farmers have already switched to dairy and interest remained high in Teagasc's dairying and farm manager courses, with around 50 students currently enrolled in its new entrant course alone. However, he warned of the high level of investment needed: "You need to get basic training, dairying is a very different business and lifestyle."

Greenhouse gas emissions

At the same time, Boyle warned of the pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With no "magic bullet" for agriculture comparable to electric cars in transport, he said a combination of new farming techniques, reduced stock numbers and afforestation would be required.

"Emissions and livestock numbers go hand in hand. How that's going to pan out in terms of the distribution between dairy cattle and beef cattle is really a matter for conjecture," he said.

There's a major problem with the requirement to re-plant the forest

Boyle noted that forestry plantings are at a record low, despite its potential to take 3mt out of the 20mt of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted by Irish agriculture every year.

"I think there's a major problem with the requirement to re-plant the forest once it's felled," he said. "Personally I think it puts off farmers."

Dublin2Mayo tractor run hopes to raise much-needed funds for charity
Building on the success of last year, the Dublin2Mayo charity tractor run returns this Easter weekend.

The Dublin2Mayo Charity Tractor Run is back, this time bigger and better.

The run will begin at Dublin Port on Good Friday and travel to Longford before finishing in Kilkelly, Co Mayo, on Easter Saturday evening.

Organiser Tom Lavelle told the Irish Farmers Journal more about the event.

“A few of us got together last year and decided to try and raise some money for families we know who have less fortunate children," he said.

Phenomenal

"At the beginning we just wanted to raise a few grand, but the response we got was phenomenal.”

With 20 tractors starting off last year in Dublin, a further 70 tractors rowed in along the route, raising a whopping €96,000.

“We also raffled off a vintage Massy Ferguson, which gathered a lot of support. The two charities we raised money for last year were Crumlin Hospital and the Special Care Unit in Castlebar.”

Build on success

This year, Lavelle and the organising committee are keen to grow the event and build on last year’s numbers.

“This time we are making a weekend out of it. The tractor run will be finishing in Kilkelly, kick-starting a weekend of festivities.

"We have a great line-up of performers such as Richie Remo, the Kilkennys and Robert Mizzell. We will be raffling off a Massey Ferguson 135 on the night also.”

All proceeds raised go towards the Special Care Baby Units in Castlebar and in Mullingar and also to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

Lavelle paid special tribute to all contributors, organisers and to sponsors Communicare Healthcare and Grassmen.

Interested?

To get involved in the tractor run or enter the draw for the Massey Ferguson 135, contact Tom Lavelle on 087-426 7070.

For more information, visit the Dublin2Mayo Facebook page.

Read more

Watch: Dublin2Mayo charity tractor run sets off

Hogan receives French Commander of the Order of Agricultural Merit
There are just 400 people alive today who have received this historic French award for services to agriculture.

Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan was awarded the Commander of the Order of Agricultural Merit at a ceremony in Paris on Friday night.

It is an order of merit bestowed by the French Republic for outstanding contributions to agriculture and was created in 1883.

The commander is the highest possible rank of the order and there are just 400 recipients of the rank alive today.

The second rank is officer and the third rank is knight. These awards are limited annually to 60 commanders, 600 officers and 2,400 knights.

Rural way of life

“Family farms and the rural way of life hold a special place in the heart of the French people, and I view it as my mission and my duty to support this treasured way of life, today and in the future,” Phil Hogan said, accepting the title.

“When minister of agriculture Jules Méline established this order in 1883, he argued that in the field of agriculture 'labour was intensive and never-ending, devotion was commonplace but the rewards were rare'."

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that the last Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos was awarded knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit.

Reward our farmers

“My deeply held belief is that we must continue to reward our farmers for the incalculable contribution they make to the well-being of our people, the well-being of our rural areas and the well-being of our precious climate and environment,” Hogan said.

“Today, though, I am honoured beyond words, I want to express my profound gratitude to you.

"I will continue to be a champion of French farmers and French agricultural products wherever I go.”

Read more

Commissioner Hogan accused of Irish bias

More green conditions in next CAP