Trust’s Consultant presents papers at 2 major conferences

  1. The European Grassland Federation Meeting in Cork, June 2018

Trust consultant Jim McAdam had accepted and presented a paper as lead author (with Nick Rendell and Michael Poole) on “A climate change mitigation strategy for the grasslands of the Falkland Islands”. The presentation attracted a lot of attention with some useful contacts-for example a Norwegian team who are working on latitudinal responses of grassland as a measure of predicted climate change response. The paper was published in the proceedings and the poster as presented is attached. Download presentation(7.4MB)

Photo. Jim McAdam (right) discusses climate change and sustainable grassland management in the Falklands with a fellow scientist at the European Grassland Federation meeting in Cork in June. Photo courtesy of Geraldine McAdam.

2. Participation in the 1st Irish Algal Researchers Conference, Galway

This interesting conference gave Trust consultant Jim McAdam the opportunity to highlight some of the Trust’s previous innovative work on seaweed in the Falklands and apply it to addressing current sustainable agriculture challenges.

Use of seaweed as fertiliser – Some old FIT research from the Falklands with a timely message for the future.

The recent extremely hot, dry weather in the UK highlighted the susceptibility of our grasslands to drought. Most of the sown grasslands in the British Isles are based on one species, perennial ryegrass, a very productive, high yielding grass with a long pedigree of bred varieties. However ryegrasses are relatively shallow rooting and in the recent drought, grass growth slowed down considerably, creating huge problems for grassland farmers.

If we are looking to develop more sustainable grasslands in a future scenario where dry spells such as we have just had, become more common, then we need to take a serious look at the species and varieties we sow or manage in our natural grasslands.

Cocksfoot is a deep-rooting grass, well renowned for its drought tolerance and, although more difficult to manage and a little less productive than ryegrass, used to be more widely used. Bred strains are available so we should consider using Cocksfoot more in the future – and carry out research necessary to support its use in sustainable farming. There is increasing concern about the use of oil-based artificial fertilisers and future farming systems are increasing looking to using more “natural” renewable products such as seaweeds.

Jim could find no published research on what happens when you put the two together as a potential future grassland option – using Cocksfoot and testing its’ response to seaweed fertiliser.

Cocksfoot grows well in many reseeds on the Falklands where, as we know, summer droughts particularly exacerbated by the strong spring winds can be a feature of the climate. Climate change predictions for the Falklands are much the same as the British Isles – getting warmer, drier and windier in summer, but in the Falklands with the shorter growing season and less fertile soils, the effects will be proportionally greater. Hence the importance of considering and trialling future grassland improvement options. There are also substantial seaweed (kelp) resources around the waters and on the beaches in the Falklands.

With this in mind as far back as the mid -1980s, through the Falkland Islands Trust, he carried out a series of trials on the effect of liquid seaweed extract (some made in the Falklands, some imported) on the growth of Cocksfoot. One, with Aidan Kerr (then ARC) at Fitzroy in the early 1990s, was previously presented at a conference. The other piece of work, a trial on the effect of liquid seaweed extract and artificial nitrogen fertiliser on what was planned to be the grass airstrip on Keppel Island, was carried out with the able assistance of Sam and Hay Miller, then owners of Keppel, was never widely reported. At that time there was not the same interest outside the Falklands. That situation has now changed.

As we in Ireland were in the midst of the hot, dry spell of weather, our grasslands were distinctly suffering and Jim thought of the message from that earlier research done on Keppel Island in the Falklands on the role which Cocksfoot, as a deep rooting, drought-tolerant grass and seaweed, as a sustainable fertiliser source could play.

Jim submitted the idea of a paper – Can seaweed have a role in sustainable grassland management? – The response of Cocksfoot to liquid seaweed extract.- to the organisers and it was presented as an oral presentation at the meeting.  As well as making a potential contribution to a real and pressing agricultural problem, it highlights the value of research carried out in the the Falklands. This is important research towards a more sustainable agriculture!