A new sustainability report from Teagasc demonstrates the economic, environmental and social sustainability of Irish farms.
The 2015 Sustainability Report is based on data collected as part of the Teagasc 2015 National Farm Survey, and uses this information to quantify the performance of Irish farms over time in a number of areas relevant to agricultural sustainability.
A particular advantage of the report is that it links sustainability with farm profitability, demonstrating how the adoption of new technologies and management practices can reduce environmental impacts and increase profitability.
The report shows that the most profitable farms tend to have lower agricultural greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk or meat produced (infographic 1), highlighting the positive impact of the practices promoted through the Teagasc – Bord Bia Carbon Navigator.
Similarly, the report shows that the most profitable dairy farms are achieving more milk production for every kg of excess nitrogen applied (infographic 2), illustrating the importance of good farm nutrient management.
The report also draws attention to the social sustainability of farms, with indicators relating to quality of life and working conditions, highlighting where farmers may be at risk of isolation, or where the age of farm families is high, indicative of farms where arranging farm succession may become an issue (infographic 3).
Reliable indicators of agricultural sustainability provide a valuable insight into contemporary farming life, but are also essential for the international promotion of Irish food.
Dr Emma Dillon of Teagasc said; “The report reveals considerable variation between farms, for all sectors and at all levels of profitability”. Bringing more farms in line with the top performers will ensure the overall sustainability of farming in Ireland continues to improve, and demonstrates that Irish farming is of the high quality demanded by global food companies and consumers.
Dr John Lynch of Teagasc said; “Recording these sustainability indicators over time is also important to show continued improvements and monitor the impact of suggested practices and technologies on real farms.”
Teagasc will continue to develop these indicators to ensure that they remain in line with developing international standards and scientific quality. Work is already underway on the 2016 edition of the Teagasc National Farm Survey Sustainability Report, planned to launch at the end of this year.