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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Plan to double protein crop area to 20,000ha

The Irish Protein Stakeholders Group has published its strategic plan to support growing native protein crops.

The Teagasc convened group aims to support farmers to produce 130,000t of indigenous protein crops from 20,000ha in Ireland by 2030.

The group also has representatives from the agricultural industry, farmers, and the DAFM.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, launched the plan on Thursday, December 9th, 2021.

Native protein crops 

Minister McConalogue said the strategy’s targets are “very much aligned” with the DAFM’s proposed CAP Strategic Plan to double the area grown to protein crops to 20,000ha.

“I firmly believe in the long-term viability of the tillage sector. I am convinced there is massive untapped potential within the tillage sector,” the minister said.

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McConalogue commits to supporting farmers in growing “indigenous” protein crops through the next CAP.

He pointed to his proposed increase in funding for the Coupled Voluntary Protein Aid Scheme from the current €3 million per annum to €7 million per annum.

Overall, he views growing the area under protein crops as a “win-win” for the industry.

“It offers a support for tillage farmers and can play a huge role in reducing our dependence on imported crops.”

Three strategies 

In a statement, they outlined three key strategies to achieve their goal:

  • Farmer profitability – Improving farm profitability from protein crops versus other crops. This is through variety improvement, better agronomic practices and bridging knowledge gaps.
  • Creating demand – Create a positive market environment for indigenous protein crops. This is through establishing their nutritional              credentials and demonstrating to livestock producers the advantages of substituting imported proteins;
  • Sustainability – Create a greater recognition of the sustainability credentials of native grown protein crops to achieve climate change and biodiversity targets by the displacement of imported protein sources.
New initiative 

Furthermore, the group intend to launch an initiative called ‘Benchmarking Beans for Yield Improvement’ next spring.

It aims to determine the key agronomic practices used to achieve the highest yielding crops and use them as a benchmark for other farmers for overall yield improvement.

The minister highlighted the benefits of increasing native production of protein crops from climate change, environmental and biodiversity viewpoints.

He said the move would “greatly” contribute to Ireland’s sustainability credentials.

Also, he outlined the advantages of protein crops from an economic viewpoint to the tillage farmer.

Add value and farmers’ incomes

Michael Hennessy, Head of Crop Knowledge Transfer Department in Teagasc, said:

“Irish tillage farmers have responded to the challenges of producing more Irish grown protein crops and will continue to rise to the challenge. “

“The animal feed market will be the largest customer of protein grains. However, developing a higher value food market is a priority to add value to protein grains and farmers’ incomes.”

Concluding, group member Liam Leahy from Dairygold added:

“As a company, we would be delighted to see the protein crop area increasing into the future where we can comfortably use up the four times our current supply as we find them an ideal crop to work with both with tillage and livestock farmers.”

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