The current area under organic production in Ireland is to be increased to 350,000ha by 2030, according to a new plan by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Yesterday (Wednesday, December 9), the national climate and air roadmap for the agriculture sector – entitled Ag Climatise – was launched.
The roadmap sets out a plan to develop the organic farming sector, increasing the current area under organic production to 350,000ha by 2030.
Some 74,000ha of Ireland’s utilisable agricultural area is now under organic production, which represents an increase of over 50% on the position at the start of the Rural Development Programme in 2014.
“There is a growing consumer demand for organic products, and Ireland’s green image in the international marketplace gives us a real opportunity to further develop the sector, while simultaneously having a positive impact on the environment,” the report states.
“Ultimately, growth will be demand led.”
Tillage area ‘must be retained despite land competition’
Because the tillage and horticulture sectors are “the most carbon efficient sectors of Irish agriculture”, the department recommends that the area under cultivation in these sectors is retained, at a minimum, or increased.
There are currently approximately 300,000ha of tillage crops produced annually and “this area must be retained, despite increasing land competition from the dairy sector”.
The department has outlined measures to take to increase the area under tillage production, producing more native grown grains and legumes for the livestock sector industry, while further enhancing the environmental credentials of the sector.
- Consider aligning the Irish Grain Assurance Scheme (IGAS) with Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance Schemes;
- Encouraging the use of winter grown cereals;
- Considering buffer strips to minimise the loss of soil organic matter through erosion;
- Consider using leguminous crops as a break crop to reduce the requirements for chemical nitrogen in a subsequent crop;
- Where practical, adopting minimum tillage on farms to protect soil carbon pools;
- Consider straw chopping and incorporation post-harvest on a set area nationally;
- Sourcing organic manures for application to tillage land, aiming to have all organic manures applied to tillage land incorporated within four hours of application.
Research into peat replacement for horticulture
The roadmap states that “consideration should be given to planting more fruit and nut trees within all agricultural enterprises”.
“Research is needed into peat replacement alternatives/technology to reduce or eliminate peat usage in the horticulture sector,” the report adds.
Alternative protein crops for human use are to be explored, which would “capitalise on the increasing trend of plant-based diets”.
In line with renewable energy targets for the country, the use of biomass and solar and wind energy to power horticulture production units, machines and equipment is planned to increase.