Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory programme (ASSAP) is a free and confidential advisory service aimed at improving water quality.
ASSAP advisors are working hard, visiting farms with the agreement of the farmers in PAAs (Priority Areas for Action) currently in the Dinin (main, south and Muckalee), Duiske and Powerstown, and Nuenna PAAs at present.
The remaining three, the Bregagh and the Linguan will see farm visits started hopefully before the end of this year and the Brownstown(Pocoke) in the next cycle.
ASSAP advisors work in collaboration with the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO). LAWPRO catchment scientists focus on assessing the water quality in tributaries and rivers which are showing evidence of impact from agriculture and are in need of some improvement. LAWPRO provide information to ASSAP advisors, this allows advisors to make more informed decisions when advising farmers in their local area.
Working with farmers to bring about water quality improvements through one to one farm visits has been well received. Farmers are recognising the fact that losses of nutrients to waters are also a financial loss to themselves.
More important, is the recognisable shift in mind-set from farming according to a one size fits all approach to an awareness that each farm is unique and the water coming from it is a precious resource that requires careful land, farmyard and nutrient management to protect and improve its water quality status.
In broad terms, the PAAs in Kilkenny are generally more vulnerable to nitrate (nitrogen) losses down through the soil to groundwater due to the more free draining soils we have in the south east of the country.
However, phosphorus and sediment losses have also been identified in a number of areas. This type of loss generally occurs through overland flow across land flowing into open drains and rivers causing water quality issues.
A typical farm visit involves walking the farm with a farmer, discussing the management of the farm and if potential issues are identified, coming up with preventative measures/actions to avoid losses from the farm. During the visit the ASSAP advisor will update the farmer on pressures found in their local area, water quality status of the river, soil type on the farm and what nutrient losses need to be targeted. The farmer plays an important role as the knowledge of their own farm is vital to identify where nutrient loses can be reduced by careful management.
Some common land management improvements include allowing targeted drain/stream margins to vegetate (riparian margin) and take up nutrients, acting like a filter to reduce losses via overland flow. Ensuring buffer zones near water are adhered to and fencing bovines out of streams and rivers.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.