Apart from the obvious downsides to the pandemic, there have been some positives. For me this has been bringing farming and IT together and realising the huge benefits.
We can quickly give excuses not to try an online meeting or lesson. Maybe it’s outside our comfort zone, or too difficult.
In the past month I have used the opportunity to tune into some excellent live webinars on agri-environment issues, such as the three big players in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
On one hand carbon dioxide comes mostly as a consequence of burning fossil fuels and it’s easy to understand how energy generation such as electricity or the transport sector burning diesel are big contributors here.
When it comes to methane and nitrous oxide, however, 93% of both of these GHGs in Ireland come from agriculture, and we have responsibilities in relation to how we tackle these emissions.
On a positive note, the solutions come down to farm management in areas such as chemical fertiliser type and usage, employing low-emission slurry spreading methods and improving animal genetics, while the carbon sequestration part of the equation can be improved through tree planting and more sustainable land management practices with peat-type soils.
Thirdly, the opportunities for renewable energy generation on farms has huge potential to offset fossil fuel usage.
This agri-environment area will be vital in the coming years, and having a chance to learn more about it for free, from the comfort of my kitchen over a cup of coffee, has been fantastic.
A second foray into the digital world has been hosting virtual farm walks and online discussion group meetings.
Never underestimate the technological ability of any farmer. Even taking age into account I am pleasantly surprised how easily farmers have downloaded Zoom and logged into meetings without any hassle.
Our once-a-day milking discussion group had a virtual farm walk in North Wales last month. Photos and farm figures brought a good discussion at the end.
We plan to venture to New Zealand this month – who said farmer don’t like to travel?
Gillian O’Sullivan is a dairy farmer from southern Ireland. Read more.