Long-term Pasture Based Production Systems

The Lyons Pasture Plots will provide a long-term platform to assess the sustainability of Irish grass-based agricultural systems through investigation of the interactions between pasture types, animal production, the environment, labour and farm economics. A pasture systems approach is necessary to address the greatest challenges facing pasture based agricultural systems in Ireland. These challenges are

  1. Pasture resilience  
  2. Animal productivity, health and welfare 
  3. Food quality from farm animals 
  4. Environmental and social sustainability in the face of increasing legislative obligations
  5. Labour, human capacity and financial sustainability

The vision for Irish agriculture is one of Smart, Green, Growth that capitalises on natural climatic advantages in grass production to achieve economic, environmental and social resilience and the longer-term viability of the Agri-Food sector (DAFM, 2011; 2015). At the core of this ambition is the improvement of pasture productivity to achieve high-quality forage production optimised to enhance rumen function, animal health and performance; reduce input costs; and achieve the additional value-added benefit of improvements in food and environmental quality (Purvis et al. 2012). UCD can make a significant contribution in this endeavour by committing to the creation of a long-term experimental pasture platform that will facilitate the integration of a wide range of research interests and will address the greatest challenges facing grass-based agriculture.

This long-term pasture research platform will be the first in Ireland and will complement similar international facilities examining other facets of ecology and agriculture. This facility is necessary to inform future practice and policy for a unique and resilient Irish agriculture.

Critical research questions that are being addressed through a long-term experimental platform are  

  • Productivity and stability of a range of pasture types under farm animal grazing systems.
  • Effect of pasture type on the health and productivity of grazing animals.
  • Effect of farm systems on soil carbon sequestration, soil quality and fertility, water quality, net greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity.  
  • Long-term economic performance, labour and knowledge requirements of farm systems.