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Clare famers are benefiting from a specialised Biodiversity Enhancement Plan Training which looks at the benefits of improved grassland and plant management.

The project, which is operated through the Clare Local Development Company (CLDC), offers bespoke biodiversity enhancement training through an assessment and survey of each farm, whereby subsequent proposals are put in place in the hope of improving all aspects of biodiversity.

A total of 21 farmers from across the county are participating in the project, which is being conducted by Environmental Scientist and Agricultural Consultant Damien Coyne. The onus, he stated, is on good grassland management involving more rotational patterns.

“The project is mainly about how they manage fuel and how they graze their land. We educate them on the most efficient methods to bring about a greater variety of plant. We focus on smaller areas being grazed on for a shorter period of time. When you move the animals around, they graze more evenly throughout,” the Tuam native stated.

The project looks at zero cost methods of improving biodiversity. Much of this involves meeting new guidelines and policies set out by the Government. There is an emphasis “on getting people paid for results” but the real battle is in “getting a verifiable method to quantify the amount of carbon being sequestered in agriculture”.

Damien alluded to stereotypical proclamations held within public perception, whereby farming has a bad name for huge carbon emissions through the likes of methane production from cows but “there is no acknowledgement of the carbon being stored in these soils already.” He cited a need for a balanced view between the two.

An opening was identified in Clare, where, Damien explained, little to no recruitment effort was necessary. Farm sizes vary widely within the project, from large intensive farms in the East of the county, to smaller part time enterprises elsewhere. Training and intervention is provided without any impact on the output of the farm. With the expansion of dairy farms over the years, Damien has noted the growth in more intensive farming but conceded that the smaller, more typical part time farming families are unable to sustain a viable income in the current economic and agricultural climate. “At the end of the programme landowners will have a clear knowledge of why certain actions are being proposed and how to implement them,” he added.

Damien Coyne Agri, which is the farming consultancy business run by the NUIG graduate, who has over 15 years’ experience working for himself, looks at providing plans and advice to farmers in the West of Ireland. With most availing of farm advisors today, Damien reiterated the importance of adhering to GLAS programme requirements, which is the agri-environment scheme under the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 where priority will be given to farmers with essential environmental assets and to farmers who undertake specific actions. “Nitrate regulations are the rule book for most farmers, and agricultural advisors work heavily with their clients in this area,” he concluded.

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