Michael Costello is a farmer in Co.Limerick. He is the secretary of BASE Ireland. BASEIreland.ie is part of an International community of farmers, agronomists and agriculture professionals who are committed to advancing the knowledge and practice of Conservation Agriculture. All members agree to abide by a few simple soil care principles:
• Minimal disturbance (non-inversion) of soil to establish crops.
• Permanent organic soil cover with crop residue and/or living plants.
• The adoption of diverse rotations and cover cropping.
BASE Ireland serves arable, livestock and mixed farming. For grass based livestock enterprises, the members adopt:
• Diverse species swards, designed to stimulate soil health and biology and for improving animal health.
• The use of organic manures to encourage soil biota, and minimise the use of artificial fertilisers.
• Grazing techniques, such as the short rotation, high stocking density utilisation of heavy sward covers (mob grazing).
The primary objective of the organisation is the development of sustainable, farmer led and profitable farming practice. BASE aim to empower members in decision making through the committed sharing of techniques, on farm learning, information and ideas. Members are further encouraged to host farm visits and openly share their experiences.
Please see https://www.baseireland.ie/ for further information and photographs of the farming methodology.
Here is Michael's farm in his own words:
My farm is an highly stocked beef farm in Limerick. We used to be an intensive farm similar to your typical dairy farm but about 5 years ago we started transitioning to become a biological farm. So the main changes have seen a huge reduction in chemical use on farm.
So what we have achieved so far is
- 90% reduction of the artificial Nitrogen fertilizer,
- 95% reduction in all animal dosing and pesticide use on farm.
The real challenge will be to reduce these % more, but this reduction will take time as I build up a more resilient soil ecosystem.
The core to achieving the fertiliser reductions and reestablishing my soils ecosystem has been the change over to composting all of our farmyard manure. This has revitalised the farm on so many levels. This is an angle we are pushing harder and harder and each year developing a better end product. Coupled this with treatment of slurries with biologicals and humates, reduces N loss and odours.
In all our approaches we have tried to keep an eye firmly on what our actions farming are having on the environment
A big part of my time is put into the organisation of BASE Ireland that im the secretary off. We are doing our very best to drive a more robust agricultural model, across all farm systems. We now have nearly a focused 100 members that are really pushing the boundaries on this model of farming.
I am also one of the farmers that make up the DANÚ group, we are running an EIP project that is trying to create a road map for all farmers to transition over to biological farming in time to come.
Nominator: Congella McGuire, Heritage Officer, Clare County Council