Recreational hunting inadequate to control deer population
The Manor Kilbride Deer Management Project has called for more to be done to control deer population.

Recreational hunting is inadequate as a deer conservation measure and as a method to control the serious economic damage to grassland, crops and woodlands by wild deer, according to Manor Kilbride Deer Management Project (MKDMP) chair Sean Eustace.

A professional cull is periodically necessary to reduce densities to tolerable levels in districts where numbers and deer damage warrant this. Recreational hunting may then maintain numbers at sustainable levels, according to the MKDMP.

Despite reasonably active hunting in the Kilbride area of Co Wicklow, large numbers of deer are regularly sighted and reported to the local deer management group. Although not claimed as a valid census, numbers range from two to 18, but also include large herds from 30 to 60 deer.

There is also evidence that significant numbers are coming into farmyards at night and feeding off silage alongside cattle.

While it is difficult and expensive to accurately conduct a deer census, the adverse effects of over-population are readily identifiable and measurable.

An overabundance of deer is negative for deer health, over-grazing habitats, damage to agriculture and woodland, migration to urban areas and surrounding counties and increased risks of deer traffic collisions.

A strategic principle outlined in Deer Management in Ireland – A Framework for Action states that lead responsibility for deer management lies with landowners and land managers.

However, regulatory and administrative systems around licencing and hunting seasons are seen by most farmers as bureaucratic and limiting to what needs to be done.

The Manor Kilbride group, comprised of hunting and farming interests among its stakeholders, agrees that even an extension of one month to the deer-hunting season in Wicklow from the end of February to the end of March could have a very positive impact. This had been approved by Minister Jimmy Deenihan some years ago, but still has not been enacted.

According to Sean Eustace, there is a strong case to adopt the Scottish model for out of season shooting of deer, whereby there is a general authorisation for occupiers suffering damage to improved agricultural land or enclosed woodlands to control deer in the closed season.

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Cows loose on Meath road
Motorists travelling on the R154 near Kiltale, Co Meath, are advised there are reports of cows loose on the road.

The AA roadwatch has received reports of cows loose along a regional road in Co Meath. The incident has been reported near Kiltale on the Trim/Batterstown road (R154).

The reports were recieved at 8.30am and gardaí are en-route to deal with the situation.

Widespread drop in points for agricultural courses
A number of agricultural science courses across the country have seen a reduction in the 2018 entry points requirement, as students opt for engineering courses.

Agricultural courses have seen a widespread drop in points, as many students opt for construction-orientated courses. Over 50,000 students will receive first-round higher-education offers today after getting their Leaving Cert results last week.

Agricultural courses at UCD, Dundalk IT and IT Tralee all experienced drops. General entry to agricultural science at UCD dropped by just four points, but dairy business and agri-environmental science fell by 20 points. IT Tralee courses had some of the largest drops, with its Level 8 agricultural science course falling by 16 points and its Level 7 equivalent falling by 33 points.

Waterford IT was one of the few colleges to buck the trend, with both Level 8 and Level 7 agriculture courses jumping by 14 points and 18 points respectively. Agricultural engineering at Galway-Mayo IT saw a significant increase of 25 points.

Engineering

The increase in interest in engineering courses was reflected across the board. For general engineering courses at UCD, Trinity and NUI Galway points are up from anywhere between 10 and 30. It is likely this has been driven by the rising demand from industry for people with those skills.

Construction management at Dublin IT increased by 20 points to 346, while project and construction management at NUI Galway jumped a massive 32 points to reach 402.

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Hijacking of term ‘sustainable’ by anti-GMO groups misleading – UCC scientists
Scientists from University College Cork have said it is grossly misleading of anti-GMO groups to equate GMO cultivation-free status with green, sustainable food production.

The hijacking of the terms ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ by anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) groups is misleading, according scientists at University College Cork (UCC). The criticism comes in the wake of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling that organisms obtained by gene-editing are also GMOs.

Earlier in July, the Irish Government also passed legislation that would allow Ireland to opt out of any future GMO cultivation in the EU. Speaking at the time of the announcement, Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, said GMO free-status was a key part of Ireland’s green reputation.

"I believe it is critically important that Ireland takes whatever steps are necessary to maintain our GMO cultivation-free status, which is a key element of our international reputation as a green, sustainable food producer,” he commented.

Gene-editing

Dr Barbara Doyle Prestwich and Dr Eoin Lettice of UCC have said it is grossly misleading to equate "GMO cultivation-free status with green, sustainable food [production]". They have organised the International Association for Plant Biotechnology’s (IAPB) congress, which is taking place in Dublin this week. It is their hope it will provide an opportunity to demonstrate the scientific evidence on the safety and economic viability of utilising biotechnology, such as gene-editing, in agriculture.

“The next generation of gene-edited crops has the potential to cut climate emissions in agriculture and boost global food security. Such crops are far more ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ than they are given credit for and should be utilised as part of any sustainable food production system, including organic agriculture,” said Dr Lettice.

He added that in 2016 alone fewer insecticide sprays due to the adoption of GM crops resulted in a reduction of 26.7bn kg of CO2 emissions – equivalent to removing 11.9m cars off the road.

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