Monday, November 25, 2013

Conference on Agriculture and Future Weather Patterns

A free conference on Agriculture and Future Weather Patterns is being held in the Teagasc Food Research Centre, at Ashtown, Dublin on Thursday the 5th December 2013.

The government has set ambitious targets for Irish Agriculture under the banner of Food Harvest 2020with a 50% increase in milk production targeted along with an increase in the output value of beef by 40% and sheep by 20% by 2020. While this is good news for the agricultural sector achieving these goals is very dependent on how our climate is going to evolve.  The fodder crisis during the winter and spring of 2012-13 is a good example of how production and weather are linked. This free conference will:
  •  Update stakeholders on the most current assessments of climate and future weather volatility
  •  Provide an assessment of the impact of the recent fodder crisis on agriculture and lessons learned
  •  Unveil exciting new research in monitoring grass growth and providing decision -support
  •  Identify stakeholder needs in terms of building on-farm adaptive capacity

There is no charge for the conference, but registration is essential.  To register please email your name, organisation and contact details to:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lack of Plant Scientists at critical level in US

Charlotte Darling, who currently works with the 
Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming,
In a major article in US News the problem of the lack of fully trained botanists and  the impact that this will have in so many areas from agriculture and forestry to biofuel production is explored.  The lack of plant scientists will severely hamper our ability to tackle global warming and adapt to climate change.  What is clear is that we need to further develop and invest in Plant Sciences as an academic subject  in order to be able to cover all the important areas it underpins and develop the research based solutions that we need for food, fuel and climate security.   The article explains that the current trend is to make Plant Science a minor subject in larger and less specialized biological sciences courses which seems crazy if Governments and universities  take these issues seriously.  For us to train the very best plant scientists they need to be part of research led botany departments and for that to happen universities have to wise up about future priorities and quickly.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Botany Society Needs YOU!

The Botany Society (BotSoc) has elected a new committee and is now looking for even more members.

Membership only costs two euro and they  have a wine reception for members being planned. So don't miss out. There is a sign up sheet  in the Botany Office or if you prefer  you can contact any of the committee members listed below.  New freshmen students are very welcome and are guaranteed a great time.

The new committee is
Chairman  John Ireland ; Treasurer Kevin Sheridan ; Secretary  Conor Dolan; Promotion:  Cara Delorey  


Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Effects of energy crops on biodiversity and ecosystem services

Intensive agricultural practices can be responsible for the loss of farmland biodiversity, and have knock-on consequences for the delivery of ecosystem services which benefit humans. Recent research as part of the SIMBIOSYS project, led by Jane Stout in the School of Natural Sciences and Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research, has quantified the effects of growing bioenergy crops on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Ireland. PhD student, Jesko Zimmermann, working with Prof Mike Jones, showed that even just two years after planting Miscanthus (a fast growing perennial grass grown for biofuel), a significant amount of carbon was already sequestered into soils (published in Global Change Biology Bioenergy). Furthermore, contrary to expectation, planting Miscanthus did not lead to significant losses in existing soil organic carbon stocks (published in European Journal of Soil Science). Jesko’s work also showed that within-crop patchiness of Miscanthus has a significant impact on payback time for initial investments by farmers and might reduce gross margins by about than 35% (published in Global Change Biology Bioenergy). Another PhD student, Dara Stanley, working with Jane Stout, investigated the effects of energy crops on pollinators and pollination and found that exclusion of pollinators from oilseed rape resulted in approximately 30% decrease in seed number and weight, equivalent to nearly €4 million per annum (published in Journal of Insect Conservation). Furthermore, Dara’s work showed that a wide range of pollinating insects use bioenergy fields (published in Journal of Applied Ecology) and that bees from more than 800 bumblebee colonies are attracted to individual oilseed rape fields (published in PLoS ONE). These studies, together with others by post-docs Jens Dauber and David Bourke who also worked on the SIMBIOSYS project, have substantially advanced understanding of the interactions between bioenergy crops and farmland biodiversity. The final report of the EPA-funded SIMBIOSYS project is available here.