A new organic cropping and integrated systems specialist has been appointed by Teagasc as it grows its organic-farming advisory service.
Martin Bourke joins Elaine Leavy and Joe Kellegher as Teagasc national organic specialists who support organic farmers and advisers.
His appointment comes at “an exciting time for organic tillage-production systems” he said, with biodiversity, soil health and more sustainable ways of tillage farming already coming to the fore.
Teagasc has also confirmed that it is in the process of appointing six regional organic advisors over the next two years.
And its organic team will be further enhanced with the planned addition of horticulture expertise for organic growers.
Career to date
Bourke was previously a tillage business and technology advisor in the Wicklow, Carlow, Wexford advisory region.
Earlier in his career, he was a lecturer in the Teagasc Kildalton Agriculture and Horticulture college.
He qualified with a bachelor of agricultural science from University College Dublin (UCD) and went on to obtain a master of agricultural science, also from UCD.
He holds a certificate in education and training from the National University of Ireland Galway, and a diploma in business studies from Waterford Institute of Technnology.
He has successfully set up, coordinated and led several on-farm research projects in collaboration with Teagasc colleagues in Johnstown Castle and Oak Park Research Centres.
These included two years of trials on how to integrate organic manure into tillage systems; and a two-year on-farm trial to examine the role and yield response of potassium on tillage farms.
He is currently involved in the EU Horizon-funded four-year Nutri2Cycle project examining the use of dairy processing sludges, dried pig solids, cattle slurry and poultry manure on tillage farms.
He has also travelled abroad with research colleagues to investigate the use of organic manures on farms in other EU countries.
He is a member of the Irish Cereals Improvement Network (ICIN), a group of Teagasc crop researchers; specialists; university academics; representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM); and stakeholders from tillage industry, who identify key areas of cereal production that may need targeted research going forward.
Speaking following his appointment, Bourke said:
“I see this as an exciting time for organic tillage-production systems. Biodiversity, soil health and more sustainable ways of tillage farming are already coming to the fore. I see huge opportunities for more tillage farmers to convert to organic farming. The conventional mindset is already starting to change with many of my clients,” he said.
Congratulating Bourke on his appointment, Mary Ryan, Teagasc Rural Development Department said he brings a wealth of experience to the Teagasc organic team on tillage crop production.
“The additional staff resources being put in place by Teagasc to support organic farming will help develop the sector.
“Recent changes to the financial supports available to organic farmers and those in conversion, by the DAFM make it an attractive option for many farmers,” she said.