ClimAg: Multifactorial causes of fodder crises in Ireland and risks due to climate change.

A three-year research project funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency under the Climate Change Research Programme.

Investigators:

Dr. Paul Leahy (School of Engineering, UCC)

Dr. Kieran Hickey (Department of Geography, UCC)

Professor Astrid Wingler (School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, UCC)

Background

Under climate change projections, Ireland is at risk of increases in the occurrence of prolonged periods of heavy precipitation as well as shorter intense precipitation events (Leahy and Kiely, 2011). Soil moisture deficits may also become more frequent due to drier summers. Temperature extremes, winter cold spells, seasonal shifts in precipitation patterns (prolonged wet periods in winter/spring/autumn).

There is a concern that production systems with over-reliance on single-species swards may be less resilient to weather disturbances. Mixed swards, e.g. grass and clover systems may suffer a reduction in clover following cold winter events (Wingler & Hennessy, 2016).

Solutions:

The expected outputs of the project will allow:

  • Risk-informed agriculture management practices to be developed. These may differ from conventional approaches which only seek to maximise short-term productivity.
  • Potential pasture management changes, e.g. mixed swards, or use of different breeds with tolerance of wider ranges of environmental conditions.
  • Better knowledge of the drivers of such crises in order to allow for effective and appropriate management interventions to be devised and deployed.