AGRISEARCH is investing more than £300,000 in an ambitious on-farm research project called “ZeroNsile,” which will examine the feasibility and practicalities of producing silage without the use of manufactured N fertiliser.
The ZeroNsile research project will focus primarily on red clover swards. Twelve farmers from the Beacon Farm Network and GrassCheck programmes have been selected from right across Northern Ireland and will be establishing new red clover-based swards over the coming season.
Silage yields and quality on these swards will be assessed over the next four years and compared to conventional grass swards on the same farms.
Soil carbon measurements will also be taken at the beginning and end of the study and compared with the control fields.
There is also a smaller Lucerne component in the study which will investigate the feasibility of growing and utilising Lucerne on four farms in County Down. AFBI will provide scientific and technical support to the project.
Jason Rankin, General Manager at AgriSearch, said: “Research into lowering the use of artificial nitrogen has been identified as a top priority by our advisory committees.
“Not only does this offer the potential for farmers to save money on the purchase of fertiliser but it also helps to lower carbon emissions. Fertiliser use accounted for around 20 per cent of GHG emissions across our Beacon Farm Network.
“Previous AgriSearch funded research at AFBI Hillsborough showed that red clover has the potential to grow high yields of protein rich forage whilst only using cattle slurry as fertiliser.
“However, there is little experience of growing and utilising red clover on commercial farms, particularly in the west of the Province. This exciting new project will help give farmers right across Northern Ireland an understanding of the potential and suitability of red clover for their farming systems.”
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