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The Concept Of Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1760 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This project will both investigate and apprise a number of factors which contribute to the current sustainability and those that may influence this sustainability.

This project is directly related to a case study which we as a group observed; the case study was carried out across 5 farms in the Black Lion region Co Cavan which is shown on the map below.

Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

Global sustainability of agriculture:

Global sustainability of agriculture covers a vast array of topics they being:









The term sustainability in ecology terms directly describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions.

At present the world is experiencing a number of environmental challenges which are creating major social, economic and political consequences throughout the globe.

If we were to focus on these environmental problems individually would not be suitable as all life on the Earth is part of a large ecosystem, and what impacts one part of the system affects the whole. This could be seen during our site visit as was deeply illustrated by each of the farmers that as current government and EU policies stipulate on stocking rates, farming methods and farming by the calendar when in practice this is not the most suitable case.

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This is due to a number of issues as focusing on any single issue such as stocking rates for every area is different due to the local environment also deteriorating quantities of genetic seed stock, preservation such as soil base (green cover during December-January) are issues directed at Ireland and EU, but larger issues such as insufficient regional food stocks for world populations, water supply, a decreasing forestry base are all issues to be addressed worldwide and are vital needs of the future. When any one of these problems is addressed, all aspects of the whole must be brought into consideration.

Agricultural sustainability worldwide has a key role to play in finding solutions to the challenges facing the Earth such issues as:

-insufficient access to food,

-declining genetic diversity,

-environmental degradation,

– vanishing forests

Without solutions for these issues to be realised new challenges will fast emerge.

Such challenges which exist in a region such as west Cavan are how climate change is affecting land condition, grass growth patterns, the availability of fresh water.

Along with climatic issues such as Reps, the water framework directive, Nitrates directive and cap are all in place to contribute to the preservation of such a rural environment.

EU and National Policies/Directives

Ireland’s National Biodiversity Plan  was launched in April 2002. The plan set out a framework that would help provide Ireland with conservation and sustainable techniques that could be used to improve and enhance biodiversity throughout the country. The plan had certain aims and objectives to achieve, and was to be reviewed after a five-year period. There were fifteen themes and sectors, with detailed actions that were to be pursued to achieve its objectives. The National Biodiversity Plan established special protected areas, which was important for the conservation of biodiversity in Ireland. About 10% of Ireland was considered to be important for nature conservation and were included in the protected areas programme. The framework for site protection in Ireland, both in terms of what should be protected and how it should be protected, are determined by national and by EU policy. These systems and techniques of protecting the SPA’s, were options in the REPS schemes, where there was added incentives and bonuses to the farmer for undertaking measures which were designed to improve biodiversity on his/her farm. REPS become a very important scheme to farmers in these SPA’s, particularly in west county Cavan as there were substantial payments on an annual basis for any participating farmer. An example of a supplementary measure that could be undertaken to enhance biodiversity in REPS is the conservation of wild bird habitats. This supplementary measure aims to improve habitat structures for wild birds and provide them with more breeding sites. There are SPA’s designated throughout the country to protect vulnerable species such as the corncrake and the hen harrier. Each farmer could receive an extra payment for undertaking a supplementary measure, as mentioned above, on top of their REPS payment which was paid on a per hectare basis. A REPS plan had to be drawn up by an approved planner, and any plan that included commonage/NHA/SAC/SPA’s had to be approved and signed by an approved environmentalist. The planner should set out the management requirements according to the relevant commonage framework plan, NPWS site management plan or agreed farming prescription. The plan has to include an environmental report, prepared by the environmentalist. Specific site requirements might include features such as adjustment to stock numbers or grazing regime, remedial works such as fencing or rubbish removal, restricted use of pesticides and fertilisers or any additional requirements set out in the REPS planner. It is compulsory to get approval from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if any farmer intends to increase stock levels, introduce stock to areas that were not grazed before or change the type of stock on the farm during the course of the plan. This professional input and advice into these schemes, from professionals such as REPS planners, environmentalists and department officials, have had a very positive impact on the commonage and SPA’s in west county Cavan, and other areas with similar landscape features. Farmers have made great use of the professional advice available to them, have made great use of the schemes and incentives all of which have helped protect and improve the biodiversity of their local area. The REPS scheme has arguably had the most positive effect on farmers farming in commonage and SPA/NHA/SAC’s areas. There are compulsory courses to be undertaken for each farmer, which educates them on how to manage their farms correctly, with issues such as nutrient management plans, protection of watercourses/habitats and the supplementary measures. This education, in my opinion has had a very positive effect on farmers and has been put use in farming regions where REPS was popular. Also, the financial benefits of the REPS schemes brought many positives to areas such as west county Cavan, as the vast majority of the money was spent in the local economy. Schemes such as the National Biodiversity Plans, Commonage Framework Plans, Duchas/NPWS plans and REPS plans have all brought positive impacts to areas such as west county Cavan an I expect will continue in the future in some form. Suggestions that some emphasis will be placed on “public goods” in the SFP post 2013 is positive, and indicates that both the EU and the Irish government are intent on protecting Ireland commonage and wildlife features into the future.


To conclude upon our evaluation of the Black lion region in Co Cavan.

We came to the conclusion that sustainability within the region could be viewed under a number of headings social, economical and environmental factors.

Social: The reasons as that were explained during the tour relating to social factors within the region was that not much employment outside of farming existed within the region and more often than not the younger generation saw a way out of this with emigration from the region being the resulting factor.

This then resulted in that generation getting educated leaving the region taking up residence close to work mainly along the east coast which resulted in the west Cavan region being abandoned and loose all revenue which such people living in the area would have brought.

Such a situation also leaves a bleak outlook for agriculture as there remains no successor to take the reins after the current proprietor passes,

Economic: If the region is to remain sustainable in an economic sense there is vital need for encouragement to build on the current population within the region.

Incentives must be put in place to encourage the development of employment within the region. As the farming community could be directly involved within such a development due to the land within their possession could be utilised for off-farm income based ventures such as tourism: hill walking, fishing, bog snorkelling ect.

As if current trends were to continue the region could fast become under populated and may soon become isolated.

Under population may in turn results in farming becoming extinct within the region this would also result in a negative impact for the environment due to no preservation of the land which could result in overgrowth of the mountains and no preservation of such a rare landscape.

Environmental: Agriculture has played an important part in the economic and sustainable growth of this region.

However, in order for this to continue, the agricultural community has to ensure that various obligations regarding the law and the environment are applied which current Legislation is in place to ensure: which limit the abuse of activities such as

Land spreading distances from water bodies. It is essential that the required distances are observed in the case of domestic wells and public water supply sources.

Requirements as to the manner of application of fertilisers, soiled water etc.

Periods when application of fertilisers is prohibited.

Limits on the amount of livestock manure to be applied.

Ploughing and the use of non-selective herbicides


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