Observing the fodder crisis

The national fodder crisis is back in the main stream news- with reports of grass growth 50% below normal and silage stores nearly empty.

But this crisis has been developing since summer last year and has crept across the country from the north west to the south east.

The main reason is the seemingly relentless rain and low temperatures. The rainfall problem is characterized not so much as excess rain (though accumulated rainfalls are above normal) but by its remorselessness – it has rained continually so that some places haven’t seen two dry consecutive days since last year, so soils haven’t had a chance to dry. Soils that are very wet cannot be trafficked without damaging them, – so many farmers were unable to get the usual harvest of silage toward the end of the summer, so stores were low. The rain continued so farmers had no option but to bring cattle indoors and feed them the stored fodder (cattle can do as much damage to wet soils as  a tractor).

Unfortunately the rain continued which meant animals has to stay indoors and this coupled with a cold late spring has meant that across the country grass has not started to grow. This effect of a cumulative seasonal impact (wet autumn, cold spring) is being studied by one of our PhD students Mohana Logakrishnan- who is looking at historical weather , satellite and farm records to build a model that can predict what the final economic impact of the current conditions will be at the end of the year.

Another student, Richa Marwaha  is building a national biomass estimator using satellites so we can measure the amount of grass growing in the country and be able to estimate what the national fodder harvest each year is. One of her outputs is February’s map of the month.

Our newest PhD student Azucena Castaneda is studying ways of improving the calibration of Met Eireann’s rainfall radar, so we can get real time estimates of current and cumulative rainfall at any location in the country. These will be combined with Sentinel 1 images to see if we can estimate soil moisture/SMD.

Finally our fourth student working in the area is Rob O’Hara and he is using satellites to measure the extent and effectiveness of field drainage. Obviously the impact of rainfall on soils varies with the soils capacity to drain the water away. If you are farming in an area of “heavy soils” then the drainage can be improved though the installation of drains (either ditches or underground drains) and Rob’s work has used Sentinel and Landsat to distinguish drained and un-drained fields and to look at the impact on grass growth of drains.

One of his outputs, actually looking at the recovery time of grassland after inundation/flooding, shows how, even if spring arrives with a bang it’ll be weeks before some farms, especially on un-drained fields in the BMW region will be back to “normal”.


depression of ndvi in summerThis plot using NDVI as a proxy for grass growth (for non-remote sensors, the higher the value, the more grass is growing) looks at fields inundated in the floods of 2015/16. What this tells us is that fields still flooded after Feb 11th had lower grass growth in May, June and July than expected- and at the extreme, fields that only drained by April 11th had very reduced grass growth in May and still reduced growth in June. So farms that have been inundated for long period, as many in the NW have – will still be feeling the effects on grass growth in June this year, even if the weather picks up by mid April. This sort of impact will have knock-on effects on farm management for the rest of the year and could potentially leave these farms vulnerable next winter to even a relatively mild seasonal shock.



Agricultural Map of the Month

We often get asked to produce maps by colleagues and for one reason or another they don’t get a wide audience. So we though we’d take the best request each month and turn it in to the “Map of the Month“.

First of our new lab member, Jesko Zimmermann has produced a very nice map based on OSI Prime 2 data showing average agricultural field size in Irish townlands.


Full Resolution PDF here













New Geospatial Post Doc in Dublin

We are looking for a Post Doc to Join our SOLUM- soils and land use project to in our geospatial group in Teagasc, Dublin 15. It would suit a soils, or environment Phd with some experience in GIS or Remote sensing OR vice versa- a geospatial phd with some understanding of soils or GHG emissions- its very broad. The Deadline for applications is Jan 18th 2018.

Details of the post are here: Job Spec – PD1_SOLUM_1217 (these details and an application form will be posted on the Teagasc recruitment page from the 15th December). But the outline of the post is:

The primary objective of this project is to develop a spatially integrated soils and land use database for Ireland that will be used to provide a robust estimate of reference soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks and improve our capability to inform Tier 2 reporting of activities and land-based mitigation methodologies.

The post doc will combine image interpretation experience with spatial analytical methodologies to create a nationally definitive inventory of landuse and soil types by re-analysis of an existing landuse photo-database in conjunction with the Teagasc Soil Information System (SIS) in a GIS environment.


The candidate will be building what’s likely to be the definitive soils/land-use database for Ireland for next decade or so.


New Teagasc PhD opporutniy in Remote Sensing

A Teagasc Walsh Fellowship is available, deadline for applications is June 30th.

The 4 year structured PhD Fellowship is a joint research project between the Department of AgrifoodBusiness and Spatial Analysis, REDP, Teagasc (Ashtown), Maynooth University Department of Geography, Maynooth University, and the Department of Geography, University College Dublin. The student will be co-located between Teagasc Ashtown, Dublin and Maynooth University and will be registered at Maynooth University. The student will be working under the supervision of Rowan Fealy (MU) and Stuart Green (Teagasc).

The proposed research will establish a methodology for utilising rainfall radar, in combination with MetÉireann’s precipitation gauge network, to develop high spatio-temporal resolution, near real-time rainfall estimates for Ireland. An analysis of the rainfall radar will also be undertaken with available satellite data (eg. METEOSAT; Sentinel 1a/b). The results will provide a robust basis for developing real time,
local rainfall estimates that coupled with the Teagasc Nutrient Management Planning decision support system (NMP Online) can inform timing of fertiliser applications.

Full details here Walsh Fellowship PhD Advert Rainfall Radar May2017 (3)

New Agmet Site

From Keith Lambkin in Met Éireann:

Every leap year for the last 28 years the Joint Working Group on Applied Agricultural Meteorology (AGMET) traditionally holds an event on or near the 29th February. This February we are relaunching our website as our leap year event.

It replaces the old site and can be viewed at www.agmet.ie

Our aim is to bring together relevant Irish agricultural meteorology related material into the one place. This website will hopefully allow for greater more frequent AGMET interactions. It also provides a platform in which the Irish agro-meteorology community can share upcoming events, PhD adverts, research opportunities, available data sources as well as catch up on related news feeds.

This site is designed for use on mobile devices as well as desktop computers for ease of use. Much of the content of this site has been community driven, informed in part from our recent Agricultural Meteorology Seminar, (National Botanic Gardens, June 2015).

While we aim to add to the site over the coming weeks, feedback, comments and news articles are always welcomed. Please contact us if you would like to share or advertise anything.


Food Security and Global Missions – Minister of Ag to give lecture

Teagasc & the RDS have been running a series of lectures on Global Issues around Food security. The last of these is Next Tuesday 1st of July, in the Mansion House at 6.30pm where minister of ag Simon Coveney will talk on  “Ireland’s Response to Global Grand Challenges in Agriculture & Food”. Its a topic very relevant to the EO community as climate and food are the main divers in new EO applications from Copernicus and the context for much of the RS funding coming down the line.

To resister for the free event got to:








Teagasc PhD Walsh Fellowship Opportunity
‘Precision agriculture tools and their application land drainage issues in Ireland’

Ref Walsh Fellowship Number: 2014017
Artificial drainage is being revealed to be one of the most important barriers in the further development of sustainable agriculture across Ireland and Europe. The correct implementation and maintenance of drainage is important for the future economic and environmental viability of farming across much of the country. Correctly drained soils extend the grazing season in beef and dairy systems, thus increasing profitability and can improve nutrient management and yield.

This project has two parallel research goals: producing geographic data on the extent of heavy soils in the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) region that have likely been drained using remote sensing and geospatial models, and developing new tools using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as survey platforms to map intra-field drainage – both underground and over-ground flow.

Applicants should have a good primary degree (First or Second Class Honours) or M.Sc. in an appropriate discipline (Computer Science, Environmental Science, Physical Sciences, etc.). The successful candidate should be highly self-motivated and be prepared for periods of field work with modern analytical equipment
The PhD Fellowship is a joint research project between Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow and the National Centre for Geocomputation, National University of Ireland Maynooth. The student will be based at the Teagasc Research Centre at Ashtown, Dublin and will be registered at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, working under the supervision of Dr. Tim McCarthy, Dr. Rowan Fealy and Dr. Conor Cahalane in association with Teagasc supervisors Mr. Stuart Green, Mr. Reamonn Fealy and Dr. Owen Fenton. The Fellowship will start on, or as soon as possible after, 1st of October when the most suitable candidate is appointed.
The fellowship award is €22,000 which includes a maintenance award to the student and payment of fees to NUI Maynooth for each of the 4 years tenable.

Further Information/Applications
Mr. Stuart Green, Teagasc Ashtown Research Centre, Scribblestown Road, Ashtown, Dublin 15.
Phone +353 (0)1 8459945​​email: Stuart.Green@teagasc.ie

Dr. Tim McCarthy, National Centre for Geocomputation, Iontas Building, National University of Ireland Maynooth,
Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
Phone +353 (1) 7086180​​email: Tim.McCarthy@nuim.ie

Application Procedure
Submit an electronic copy of Curriculum Vitae and a letter of interest simultaneously to:
Mr. Stuart Green (Stuart.Green@teagasc.ie) and
Dr. Tim McCarthy (Tim.McCarthy@nuim.ie).
Closing date
8th August, 2014.