Hello and greetings to my fellow water quality citizen science community and research orientated aficionados!
My name is Cathal Flood. I am a post graduate reserarcher in Maynooth University. I am also a member of a local citizen science project in Emyvale, Co. Monaghan in Ireland led by Enda Fields of DKIT and Leo McMahon, a local angler whose father was bailiff of emy lough for many years. Local knowledge I have found so informative and inspiring as I did my thesis. What do we do?? Well we take part in monthly testing of various water quality parameters in the Emyvale catchment and also compare this testing to some taking place in Maynooth University that started there with the DCU water blitz with fourth year biology students in the college and Dr. Gail Maher of the department of Biology last September. Obviously given the strange times we are in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, it is unfeasable for us to continue our regular testing which had only just expanded into nutrient testing for Nitrates thanks to the help and support of DCUs water Institute with Dr.Fiona Regan in particular...but for now we cannot go rouge with our pipettes and cuvettes to break the law in the name of water quality :D Stay home and stay safe I encourage you all of course.
However as a water quality enthusiast it is hard for my mind to switch off water and one day on the farm (I am also a part time farmer) which I still have to attend to as an essential service, an epiphany came to me. What if I test here? I always have a great belief that farmers are part of the solution of our environmental conflicts today and not the problem as some would point to them as. I decided given by luck I still had access to the citizen science basic water monitoring equipment via my nutrient test kits (still had some left) and phosphate testing equipment from Enda (Hanna low range checker) that I could perform some nutrient tests actually on my own farm looking at the effects of land use activities such as slurry and fertilizer application with best practice on the local river and streams which flow through the small 30 acre farm in Ardagh, Co. Longford.
There are four stream access points for cattle drinking acess or "watering holes" if you will on this farm. I have them restricted as my father did for minimal access but access nonetheless to local water bodies for obvious animal consumption and welfare reasons. My core thought was if I monitored before, during and after grazing of livestock what would it show? What would I see (testing when I am back on the farm every couple of days) . I think the mini study will be interesing first to me to see effects my farm managment is having on my local water body. Secondly important to assess nutrient managment planning on the farm and compare to other nutrient managent systems in general. And finally to show how farmers can learn about their local catchment issues, become advocates of best practice on farm dealing with their local water source for their livestock and become not only custodians of the fruitful land but also of the fresh water!
My first I guess experiment was simple. A before and after nutrient test for Nitrates and phosphates during fertilizer/FYM application (April 17th and 23rd) which I will do a seperate post on after I complete more fertilizer use in June spreading for second cut silage and autumn pasture. My second nutrient test or experiment is on recently moved livestock from housing to grazing (May 1st) on a 1.5 acre field with one single limited stream access for water consumption as seen in the picture above to assess physical changes in the water body and nutrient changes of course while they are grazing near there. They will be there with maybe some livestock changes (but same quantity of cattle and their poos) til 15th May. I will test again on Friday 8th May. You are all welcome to provide thoughts or feedback. I am learning too in this process of how to be a more environmentally aware farmer, citizen scientist as well as researcher.
Please follow my tales from the watering hole!