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2022 June 13

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine awards modelling of species diversity in agricultural grassland

SCSS Researcher Prof. Caroline Brophy is part of a new collaboration that has been awarded funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) with their project “Multi-species mixtures for more sustainable forage and livestock production (Multi4More)”. The project is designed to respond to the emerging need of sustainable food production systems. SCSS will hire a three-year Postdoctoral Fellow to work on statistical modelling aspects of the project, commencing in year two of the project.

Irish agricultural grasslands are traditionally dominated by a single grass species, with high nitrogen fertiliser inputs resulting in high emissions. Increased use of mixtures of different plant species, however, has the potential to reduce the need for nitrogen fertilisers, increase yields and improve the environmental footprint of productive systems. Led by Dr John Finn, Teagasc, Multi4More will establish a national partnership of research excellence with Teagasc, TCD, UCD and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, leveraging their world-leading expertise in soil management, crop production and modelling of environmental performance of plant species. The project will investigate the impact of species diversity (grasses, legumes and herbs) in grasslands on forage systems and animal performance under reduced nitrogen fertilisation regimes. The project aims to identify the optimal combinations of grasses, legumes and herbs in multi-species mixtures and find out ‘how low can we go’ with nitrogen fertiliser application.

To maximise the long-term benefit from project outcomes, Multi4More will develop accessible resources for key stakeholders in the area including policymakers, farmers, farm advisors, industry, and agricultural educationalists. Ultimately, the project aims to develop sustainable and climate change conscious practical agricultural strategies to future-proof food production systems in Ireland and beyond.