The Signpost Programme village at the Teagasc Moorepark Open Day focused on greenhouse gas emissions, water quality and habitats, with advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint to how to improve hedgerows and increase biodiversity on farms.
There are 54 dairy Signpost farms and the main aim on these farms is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% to 15% by 2025.
The target for dairy farms nationally is to reduce emissions by 10% to 15% by 2030.
The first thing to see entering the Signpost village at the Moorepark Open Day was a carbon flux tower, which measures emissions in the air.
Fifteen towers are currently being established on Signpost programme farms and agricultural catchment programme farms.
These towers will examine the effects of different farming systems on emissions levels.
Soil carbon is also being sampled and these measurements should help to see how different farming systems release different levels of emissions and store different levels of carbon.
On habitats, there were four main pieces of advice on how to increase biodiversity on farms and how to improve the habitats on the farm for wildlife.
On average, 6% to 7% of the farm area on Irish dairy farms is dedicated to habitats. In Moorepark, more than 12% of the land is dedicated to habitats.
These habitats provide food and shelter, and help to improve soil and water quality and improve carbon sequestration.
There was advice on how to improve some of these habitats, such as trimming the side of a hedge, but allowing the hedge to grow tall. It is important to allow hedgerows to flower.
Buffer zones should be created around watercourses to avoid fertiliser, slurry or herbicides entering the watercourse.
The advice on field margins was to fence off the margin to keep fertiliser, slurry and herbicides out of the margin and create a corridor for wildlife to travel in. These margins may be cut in winter.
It is important to improve the quality of the habitats on farms, but new habitats can also be made.
For example, allowing field corners to be left for wildlife, planting a woodland grove, managing some grassland as low input pasture or some farmers might even decide to dig out a pond.
There was a huge emphasis on water quality and the need to improve it.
There is a connection between the most intensive dairying areas in the country and high nitrate concentrations in water, although there are other factors at play.
Teagasc has said that while mitigation actions can limit the amount of nutrients applied, there should also be a focus on soil type and the ease at which these nutrients travel.
This must be taken into account for agri-environmental measures to work, according to Teagasc.