Environmental challenges are the biggest issues facing farmers and the agriculture industry over the next three years, according to Teagasc.

The semi-state research and advisory body has published its statement of strategy to 2024, which sets out the actions it has planned to assist farmers to adapt to these challenges.

The strategy commits to establishing a national agricultural sustainability research and innovation centre at Johnstown Castle, Co Wexford to continue the work of the existing Teagasc environmental research centre currently located there.

Carbon

Teagasc also plans to establish an agricultural soil carbon observatory which will focus on reducing national net emissions as well as laying the scientific foundations for potential “carbon farming”.

Teagasc's recently-launched signpost programme will be the main driver for the implementation of actions by Irish farmers to reduce emissions.

The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice (ASSAP) programme and the agricultural catchments programme, which focus on improving water quality, will contuine over the next three years.

In the tillage sector, Teagasc will focus on reducing protein imports, with the substitution of Irish grown alternatives while also exploiting niche opportunities for the production of high value crops.

It intends to establish a brewing and distilling centre at its crops research centre, Oak Park.

Beef

Teagasc also plans to demonstrate a low-intensity, profitable blueprint for suckler farming, and establish a dairy-beef demonstration farm to promote dairy beef.

The low income and profitability challenges facing many farm enterprises is acknowledged, with strategies outlined to assist producers to improve returns. Diversification options, that could suit some farmers will be explored and supported through the advisory service.

Teagasc chair Liam Herlihy said: “The environmental agenda is challenging in terms of reducing and adapting to gaseous emissions, improving water quality and enhancing farm biodiversity.

“Our science has led to the creation of greenhouse gas and ammonia marginal abatement cost curves. This science underpins public policy.

“But research doesn’t stand still. Our scientists are also looking to develop future technologies to address the climate challenge.”