The effect of multispecies swards on the sustainability performance of Irish grazing systems

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract

Abstract

The European agricultural sector faces major environmental and socio-economic challenges, as shown by the growing number of legislations urging the sector to reduce its negative environmental impacts while increasing productivity. Within the agricultural sector, ruminant systems are often identified as key drivers of the negative environmental impacts associated with agriculture (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions -GHGE- and land use/land-use change). Intensifying production by using monocultures and/or higher inputs (i.e. fertilizers) has usually been the main path to address agricultural socio-economic challenges. However, an approach based on ecological processes could tackle the sector’s environmental challenges as well. Taking Ireland as a case study, and using a comprehensive bio-economic farm model, we analysed the farm-level productivity, profitability and environmental performance of a traditional beef and sheep co-grazing system (permanent pasture: PP) and compared it to two contrasting intensification scenarios: a monoculture of perennial ryegrass (PRG) and, as an ecological process-based approach, a multispecies sward (MS). Both scenarios resulted in a reduction of GHGE and land use, as well as an increase in productivity and profitability when compared to the original PP system. Nevertheless, and mostly due to a higher productivity of the MS sward, this one outperformed the PRG in all indicators analysed. Farm-level GHGE were reduced by 6.6% in the PRG scenario and by 31.9% in the MS scenario. The MS allowed for a 45% reduction of the original grazing area, whereas the PRG’s reduction was of 16.2%. Operating profit and meat productivity per grazing hectare were increased by 79% and 83% respectively in the MS scenario and by 3.8% and 20% in the PRG scenario. These results, although of a limited scope, illustrate the prospective value of ecological-based approaches when trying to answer some of the environmental and socio-economic challenges of the agricultural sector
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEAAP 2022 73rd Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Pages386-386
Number of pages1
ISBN (Electronic)9789086869374
ISBN (Print)9789086863853
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2022
Event73rd Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (2022) - Porto, Portugal
Duration: 5 Sep 20229 Sep 2022

Conference

Conference73rd Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (2022)
Abbreviated titleEAAP 2022
Country/TerritoryPortugal
CityPorto
Period5/09/229/09/22

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