AgriSearch announce £400k investment in GrassCheck
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Announcing the new investment AgriSearch’s General Manager Jason Rankin said: “Over the last 23 years the GrassCheck programme has been fundamental in assisting ruminant livestock farmers maximise returns from grazed grass.
"This initiative led by AgriSearch, AFBI and CAFRE, in partnership with DAERA, has monitored year on year variations in grass growth providing valuable information to both farmers and policy makers during this time.
“With fertiliser prices more than tripling, and concentrate prices doubling for many farmers, the benefits of efficiently utilising high quality grass has never been so important in operating a sustainable and profitable farming system.
"Grazed grass and grass silage remain the dominant and cheapest forage source in Northern Ireland, occupying an estimated 93% of the total farmed area.
"However, making efficient use of grassland takes careful management and can be challenging in some instances. The weather extremes experienced in recent years has highlighted the variability in grass growing conditions across the province.
"By incorporating farm data from across the province these varying conditions can be better monitored and understood. Grassland also has an important role in sequestering carbon.
"Work conducted over the past 50 years at AFBI Hillsborough has shown that well managed grassland can sequester over 800kg of Carbon per hectare per year.
“However, we recognize that these are changing times for Agriculture and that GrassCheck needs to adapt to these challenges. The next phase of GrassCheck will seek to expand grass growth monitoring to include swards containing significant levels of clover and using low levels of manufactured N fertiliser.
"We are also planning to conduct baseline assessment on soil carbon across the GrassCheck network.”
AgriSearch have opened applications for new farmers to become part of the “GrassCheck” network. Applications are being sought from dairy farms in Fermanagh and all farm types in Armagh, North and East Antrim, South Londonderry and North Tyrone.
Applications are also being sought from farms across Northern Ireland who have significant levels of clover (approx. 20%) present in their grassland swards and who sow low (or no) levels of manufactured N fertiliser.
For those interested in taking part in the project the online application form and further details are available via the AgriSearch website or social media channels.
AgriSearch will be attending the Winter Fair for those who have any queries and would like to speak to a member of the team in person. Applications close on Monday 19th December.