Over €24m has been announced in funding for 20 agriculture related research projects.

The grant funding was announced as part of the Department of Agriculture’s 2023 thematic research call.

An event was held last week at the Government’s Backweston Campus in Co Kildare, where each of the 20 researchers gave a short presentation on their project.

The Irish Farmers Journal reports on a selection of these research projects.

More refined values for ruminant methane emissions

This new research led by Ben Lahart aims to develop more refined methane emissions factors for ruminant livestock in Ireland.

Like the majority of countries in the world, Ireland uses international default emissions factors to calculate the amount of methane produced by ruminant livestock through enteric fermentation (a digestive process). These default values are based on the proportion of energy consumed by ruminants that is lost as enteric methane during the digestion of feed.

International data from livestock on a wide range of diets is used to derive these emissions factors, and may not necessarily be representative of the animal types, feed offered and management practices common in Irish livestock production systems.

“The purpose of the project is to collect methane data from dairy, beef and sheep across the lifespan of the animal, from the growing phase right up to the production phase; to get that data and collate it into a database that could be used to refine the emissions factor for Irish conditions,” said Lahart.

Breeding ash dieback tolerant trees

Dheeraj Rathore will head up a project that looks to breed ash trees that are tolerant to dieback disease.

Research suggests that 1-3% of ash trees exhibit a higher level of tolerance to dieback disease.

This project will identify tolerant ash trees to select and breed by grafting for disease screening.

Seeds from healthy ash trees will serve as the basis of progeny trials, followed by developing a genetic investigation tool to validate durable tolerance.

There are a number of elements to this project, which collectively aim to provide a whole system approach for ensuring the survival and sustainability of ash in the Irish landscape.

Since the first detection of ash dieback in Ireland in 2012 the disease has caused high mortality of ash.

Targeted mitigation approaches to improve water quality

Led by Daire O’hUallacháin, this project will align with the Water European Investment Partnership (Water EIP) to assess the effectiveness of clusters of practical, on-farm measures, implemented to protect and improve water quality across a gradient of scales – field, farm and catchment.

The identification, evaluation and distribution of effective mitigation approaches (measures, management practices, tools and technologies) to protect and improve water quality is an essential element for sustainable agricultural systems.

The project is of relevance to a significant audience of farmers, researchers, industry and policymakers. The project will develop technologies and tools to support farmers, advisers, land and water managers to protect and improve water quality.

The outcomes of the project will inform policy, but also benefit broader sections of society and the economy.

Biostimulants for grass production

Through this project Carl Ng will develop a new grass germplasm with better nitrogen use efficiency. Three classes of bio-based products, individually or in combinations, will be tested and evaluated for their functionality in perennial ryegrass and multispecies swards under reduced chemical input regimes.

Life-cycle analysis will deliver a system-level analysis of bio-based products, and consider impacts across the full life cycle to avoid burden shifting from one environmental impact to another.

By integrating these analyses within contemporary pasture management practices, the project will position Ireland at the leading edge of agricultural innovation.

This research will also provide farmers with an elite germplasm and sustainable bio-based alternatives in the face of national and EU regulations on the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

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€24m announced for 20 agri research projects