Launching the Farmland Guidelines for the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan

By Jane Stout

This year, for the first time, I attended the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, Co. Offaly. This is an annual event, showcasing everything agricultural, and a big deal in rural Ireland. Over the three days, 300,000 people don wellies and descend on a field in the midlands. It has been dubbed the “Glastonbury for farmers” and involves hundreds of stalls and events, as well of course as ploughing competitions.

But this year, I wasn’t there for the ploughing. I was there for the pollinators. We were launching the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan Farmland Guidelines.

farmland guidelines launch
Minister Andrew Doyle launching the guidelines (L-R: Catherine Keena, Teagasc; Andrew Doyle TD, Minister for State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture; Una Fitzpatrick, Coordinator of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan; Gerry Ryan, President of the Federation of Irish Beekeeper Associations; Jane Stout, TCD and Deputy Chair of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan; and Tara McCarthy, CEO, Bord Bia)

These guidelines detail five evidence-based actions to help make farmland more pollinator friendly. These actions are:

1. Maintain native flowering hedgerows
2. Allow wildflowers to grow around the farm
3. Provide nesting places for wild bees.
4. Minimise artificial fertiliser use
5. Reduce pesticide inputs


Although these five actions may seem simplistic, if farmers embrace these actions, we have the chance to reduce pollinator loss across Ireland’s countryside. The guidelines were developed in collaboration with Bord Bia over two years, incorporating evidence from scientific studies both in Ireland and elsewhere, as well as engaging in extensive consultation with farmers, advisors, farming groups and local communities.

Many people who visited us in the Bord Bia Origin Green stand for the launch were amazed that we have 98 species of bee in Ireland, and that only one produces honey. Many were genuinely concerned about their decline and we heard from lots of people who were already farming in nature-friendly ways.

farmland guidelines president
President Michael D. Higgins at the launch of the Farmland Guidelines

Although most of Irish agriculture is pasture-based, and not currently reliant on insect-pollination services, we hope that Irish farmers will take action to support bees and other pollinators. Their motivation may be a desire to maintain our diverse natural heritage, or they may see that these actions will benefit Irish farmers in a wider sense by reinforcing Ireland’s green image in premium markets. In addition, there are other benefits such as supporting natural pest control and protecting watercourses, keeping farming options open for future generations, and, in a lot of cases, saving farmers time and money.



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