'Every farmer should have nettles on their farm to improve biodiversity'- dairy farmer and activist
Every farmer should have a bunch of nettles on their farm to increase the land’s biodiversity value, well-known dairy farmer and environment activist Donal Sheehan has said.
A UN report published this week has said that industrial farming is a major driver in one million animals and plant species are at imminent risk of humankind.
However Donal Sheehan, who runs a 70 cow dairy farm in Castlelyons, Co Cork set up the five-year BRIDE Project (Biodiversity Regeneration In a Dairying Environment) in 2018 which pays the farmers involved to make environment improvements on their farm, with the aim of setting aside at least 10pc of their farm for conservation.
He said the project pays farmers for conserving nettles as they are big drivers of biodiversity and in particular increasing butterfly life.
“Nettle patches are something that farmers throw their eyes up to heaven about when we mention them. It’s something the Department of Agriculture or Teagasc could never take on because their credibility is at stake, but our credibility was never an issue,” he told the recent IFA Smart Farming Conference.
“Nettles are a food plant for five different species of butterflies, if you’ve no nettles you won’t have five species of butterflies. This is why we need to reconnect with nature.
“We’re paying farmers to have a couple of bunches of nettles on their farm, two metres by two metres in size. Farmers need to get their heads around it, it’s as simple as that.”
Mr Sheehan pointed out that in the past there was a view that environment schemes were for less intensive farmers, but he said that view needs to change and that every farmer now needs to "embrace the green and not go against" it if they want to market their product as sustainable.