Sarah Brown has been appointed to the role of Super-G project officer at AgriSearch.  Sarah who is from a farming family in County Down, recently graduated from the BSc (Hons) Agricultural Technology degree at CAFRE/QUB and previously undertook a sandwich year placement at Fane Valley.  At AgriSearch Sarah will be working exclusively on the EU SUPER-G project including management of the associated EcoSward project.

Sarah Brown, Project Officer

The SUPER-G project (SUstainable PERmanent Grassland) is a 5 year EU Horizon 2020 project, delivered by 20 partners from 14 countries.  The overall objective of the SUPER-G project is to co-develop sustainable permanent grassland systems and policies with farmers and policy makers that will be effective in optimising productivity, whilst supporting biodiversity and delivering several other Ecosystem Services.

In Northern Ireland, AgriSearch in conjunction with AFBI commenced a project entitled EcoSward in Spring 2020.  The EcoSward project aims to examine the potential role of multi-species swards in enhancing production and delivery of ecosystem services, including biodiversity and carbon sequestration, on 8 commercial dairy, beef and sheep farms.  The project will be carried out over 3 years, with the farms already having established herbal leys in year one.  The farmers sowed two seed mixes; the first mix contained perennial ryegrass and clover (a control), and the second mix contained perennial ryegrass, white clover, plantain and chicory.

The participating farmers will provide information on the establishment method they used, as well as weekly records of yield, weather, organic and inorganic fertiliser applications, plant protection products used and animal grazing behaviour.  In addition, AgriSearch will collect data on soil carbon levels, species persistency and sward nutritional quality.  Since establishment Sarah has been out on farm collecting this data which will later be compared with data collected at the end of the project.

Taking a soil sample on farms participating in the EcoSward project

Soil carbon monitoring is a vital first step to benchmarking carbon sequestration on farms which will be one of the key metrics to be monitored in the new Beacon Farm Network which AgriSearch is establishing.  Recruitment is currently open and further details on the network and how to apply can be found here