Climate change adaptation & mitigation
Natural Water Retention Measures to minimise impact of flooding
Dr. Mary Bourke from the School of Geography is involved in a number of projects making communities resilient to natural hazards and disasters by minimising impact of climate change and extreme weather phenomena. A number of natural water retention measures are being assessed in agricultural catchments to minimise the impact of flood peaks that lead to destruction in a flood event.
The different methodologies are being explored with local communities (i.e Donegal) to scale them up. The combination of these methodologies will lead to recommendations to Local Authorities to better plan catchment types and reduce flood peaks that leads to destruction of infrastructure (i.e. bridges, roads, riverbanks, etc.).
Endophytes for resource efficient agriculture
Dr. Brian Murphy and Prof. Trevor Hodkinson – have been involved in the discovery and commercial use of endophytes. Endophytes are micro-organisms that live inside plants in a symbiotic manner. Like gut bacteria for human health, these micro-organisms can play an important role in the resistance of plants to drought, disease, and temperature fluctuations. In addition, endophytes can reduce the overuse of fertilizers and other chemicals while maintaining the same crop yield. This has an enormous impact in reducing production and environmental costs for the farmer. Commercial scale field trials have demonstrated that an Irish barley farmer with 33 ha field could save up to €10,000 on fertilisers costs.
Precision indoor agriculture
Over the last couple of years, there has been a surge on the Ag-Tech space to the point that analysts called it the Green Revolution 2.0. This revolution is driven by technology rather than simply cheap fertilisers. These technologies will enable food production systems to be more efficient, profitable but also more inclusive. Smart Agriculture Market size is estimated to grow a 14.3% CAGR from 2015 to 2020. And the indoor farming and smart greenhouses will grow 4% from 2017 to 2022.
The application of the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and artificial intelligence is driving labour and other operations costs down. This Ag-Tech surge is particularly intense in the development of smart and intelligent greenhouses/indoor farms because are resilient to climate change as they are not exposed to extreme weather conditions. They also can be grown anywhere (i.e. basements, warehouses) eliminating the need for using prime agricultural land. And they can be located nearer their destination, reducing transport costs and their environmental footprint.
Plants are very sensitive to changes in their environmental conditions, which can trigger biological changes within the plant. New research by Prof. Jennifer McElwain and her team will allow people to standardise and calibrate more precisely controlled environment facilities, which is key to improving biomass crop yield and bioactive compound recovery. The technology could reduce the cost of environmental testing and improve the cost-effectiveness of other artificial sensors.