Based outside Fermoy, Co Cork, Teagasc Moorepark consists of 135ha and last week held an event titled Woodlands for Water.

Clover systems experiment researcher Áine Murray, based in Moorepark, explained what has been done on the farm to increase sustainability and biodiversity.

Áine explained that clover incorporation began on the farm in 2012 and 80% of the grassland area has clover incorporated into it. Some of this clover was incorporated into the sward when reseeding, while some was stitched in.

"April is the best time for oversowing when the ground is still moist and also warm," Áine said.

A 14-day rotation has been maintained on the newly oversown clover paddocks on the farm. They are grazed to low covers to keep the light in at the base of the sward to encourage establishment.

Nutrient management

In terms of nitrogen use, protected urea is used as a nitrogen source, as the farm has no phosphorus (P) allowances.

While parlour washings are also used, it is down to prioritisation when it comes to spreading slurry, according to Áine.

Slurry goes out using low emissions slurry spreading (LESS) and there is less than 200kg N/ha spread across the whole farm.

Silage ground is 12ha in an out-block, of which 50% is in red clover. The red clover did not get chemical nitrogen (N) for the first two years. Now in its third year, nitrogen was spread for the first-cut silage and slurry for the second cut.

Plantain has been sown in inch land and the calf area and this should see reduced N leaching in these areas.

Slurry storage has a built-in aeration system, meaning slurry is constantly agitated and can be spread as conditions allow and as needed, without having to plan agitation.

Farm energy improvements

The farm is generating some of its own energy. Solar panels went in on the piggery in 2022 and, this year, panels went on the milking parlour.

Speed pumps are in the parlour to increase energy use efficiency.

Biodiversity improvements

Biodiversity improvements include hedgerows, grazing woodlands, clover swards, riparian zones and stone walls.

"Around 16% of the area has habitats across the farm, with an aim to increase this further.

"Approximately 2.9ha of native multi-functional woodland was planted in 2023 to improve water quality on the river and there are plans to put in more hedging," Áine said.

Carbon sequestration measurements

"In the inventory, mineral soils sequester 0.6 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year (C/ha/year). However, measurements from Johnstown Castle see that this is actually 2.3t C/ha/year.

"Eddy covariance towers have been put in across numerous Teagasc farms, including Moorepark, and preliminary data shows this to be the case," she concluded.