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Munster Agricultural Society and UCC collaborate on Farmland Biodiversity Programme

Pic: left to right: Cllr Danny Collins, Lord Mayor of Cork County Council; Cllr Deirdre Forde, Lord Mayor of Cork City Council; Prof. Frank Buckley (Professor of Agricultural Science & Head of Discipline of Agricultural Science Degree at UCC); Tánaiste Micheál Martin; Robert Harkin (President of the Munster Agricultural Society); Saba Loftus (Head of Development, College of Science, Engineering and Food Science at UCC.) Photo: Clare Keogh

Tánaiste Micheál Martin announced an exciting collaboration between the Munster Agricultural Society (MAS) and UCC at the official opening of the Cork Summer Show 2023.

The Munster Agricultural Society are generously providing a philanthropic gift of €375,000 to the Cork University Foundation for the development of a Farmland Biodiversity Education and Research Programme within Agricultural Science at UCC.

MAS will also loan a two-acre research site to UCC for plot-based research in soil and grassland science. This builds on the strong legacy of agricultural education and collaboration between UCC and MAS in the region.

The objective of the MAS supported Farmland Biodiversity Education and Research Programme at UCC, in conjunction with the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) is to develop and deliver a comprehensive programme of Farmland Biodiversity education, demonstration, research and extension initiatives.

This will provide leadership to the industry, guidance for future policy and incentive schemes, and share with the public the positive actions being taken at farm level.

The site will provide valuable capacity for research to support the future sustainability and competitiveness of Irish pasture-based farming. This impactful contribution will be pivotal to the research being undertaken by UCC’s Agricultural Science discipline led by Prof. Frank Buckley.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said:
“It is fantastic to see the continued legacy of strategic collaboration between UCC and the Munster Agricultural Society – testament to the aligned objectives of the two organisations, the vital contribution played by agriculture to the region, and recognition that ‘productive competitive farming’ must be supported to prosper in harmony with nature. Ireland’s sustainable agricultural practices play a pivotal role in the Irish economy. This partnership will allow Ireland to continue to lead in terms of agricultural innovation, education and research for generations to come."

Also at the event Robert Harkin, President of the Munster Agricultural Society explained:
“The society is acutely aware of the challenges facing the Irish agricultural sector. One of the primary aims of MAS is to support the sustainable development of agriculture in the region. It is clear that our goals are very much aligned with the objectives of the Agricultural Science programme at UCC. We are delighted to support them and look forward to seeing the extensive educational and scientific outputs that will emanate from this strategic partnership”.

Prof. Frank Buckley, Professor of Agricultural Science and Head of Discipline of Agricultural Science Degree at UCC outlined the benefits of the joint collaborative initiative:
“We are grateful for MAS’s support which will allow us to develop an exciting and much needed Farmland Biodiversity programme within Agricultural Science at UCC. It will also allow us to strengthen the delivery of our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and cutting-edge research activity that will support the future sustainability of Irish grassland agriculture. MAS’s support will accelerate our potential to build critical mass, collaborate nationally and internationally, and leverage significant external funding, for which we are very grateful”.

Kerry Bryson, CEO, Cork University Foundation added: "The Munster Agricultural Society’s generous support includes funding a post and loaning UCC two acres for grassland and farmland biodiversity research. This impact of this collaboration will be pivotal to the research being undertaken by UCC’s Agricultural Science discipline. "

Gerard Murphy, President Emeritus/Director of Munster Agricultural Society reflected on the long history of collaboration and the deep connection between the society and University College Cork: “We are delighted to be involved with research that very much reflects the society's roots. Our role in agricultural education can be traced back to our foundation in 1805. This project is symbolic of a reinvigoration of the important and historic relationship between the Munster Agricultural Society and UCC.

Albert de Cogan, Vice-President of MAS, and Chairman of the Society’s ‘Munster Dairy School and Agricultural Institute committee’ warmly welcomed the new initiative: “On behalf of our MDSAI committee I want to congratulate Prof Frank Buckley and his team at UCC on providing us with the opportunity to support very timely and worthwhile initiative that will provide much needed leadership, a positive voice and practical strategies that will safeguard the legacy of Irish farming for generations to come.”

Dr Deirdre Hennessy, Lecturer in Sustainable Agriculture (Grassland Science) and ERI Academic, highlighted that “the establishment of research plots and a demo area at the MAS site, and its close proximity to the UCC campus, will allow us to further develop our research-lead practical teaching within Agricultural Science at UCC. It will also act as an important focal point for us to showcase the outcomes of our research to visiting farmers, policy makers, advisors, industry personnel, students, scientists, and the general public”.

Dr William Burchill, FBD Lecturer in Soil Science and ERI Academic added “The research site provided by MAS is a significant addition to our developing Agricultural Science Programme at UCC. It will allow us to conduct research that will focus on delivering adoptable solutions to combat the key sustainability challenges of emissions, water quality and biodiversity loss while also safeguarding the economic and social sustainability of our family farms”.