Rural Uplands: Biodiversity

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Alex Easton Alex Easton DUP 3:15 pm, 22nd September 2020

T4. Mr Easton asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for his assessment of the rural upland areas and the role that they can play in building biodiversity. (AQT 414/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The rural uplands have many opportunities. We have a lot of blanket bog in Northern Ireland, which captures vast amounts of carbon. Sometimes that blanket bog has been undermined by, for example, inappropriate tree planting, and the trees have absorbed a lot of the water that would end up in the bog. The drier the bogs, the more carbon they release and the less carbon is captured. We are looking at that. However, for those farms that have reclaimed land around bogs and are benefiting from it, that land will end up being wetter and therefore not as useable, so we need to identify and compensate those farmers so that we can ensure that the carbon capture takes place and that it is not one individual or a number of individuals who take the pain of doing that through loss to their business.

Photo of Alex Easton Alex Easton DUP

I thank the Minister for his answers so far. What biodiversity success has been achieved in Glenwherry hill farm?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Glenwherry hill farm is very exciting in that it has straightforward good management practice. We have seen the reintroduction of many species such as the hen harrier, snipe, curlew, red grouse and many other bird species indigenous to Northern Ireland that were lost or whose numbers were way down. In fact, we recently had a golden eagle at Glenwherry.

Agricultural practice on the farm is done in a way that still delivers growth rates of, for example, 1·2 kg per day for each suckled calf whilst delivering huge environmental benefits. It is about how we can develop and use that skill base on facilities like that and apply it to other farms so that they can maximise what can be achieved environmentally whilst maximising what they can achieve agriculturally by producing good-quality food.