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A more natural way to keep our food greener

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Getting soils to purify themselves.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

There was a time about a half generation back when we were all blissfully unaware of such topics as greenhouse gas emissions, slurry gas or the impact of carbon dioxide on our atmosphere and food.

Now a day won’t pass without some new contribution on all the stuff floating around in our atmosphere, apparently burning holes in our ozone layer, that protects us from the most harmful rays of the sun.

The deadliest of those gases from a human health point is hydrogen sulphide (H2S) that is produced in slurry tanks from a series of chemical reactions and that gets trapped under the crust of the liquid over the course of the winter.

When that crust is broken at the point of agitation the gas escapes into the immediate atmosphere with the inhalation of a lung full, enough to be fatal.

Farmers should have enough in their self-preservation instincts to steer clear of the slurry hazard but it continues to claim lives, year-in, year-out – what cannot be seen or scented can be the stealthiest of enemies.

On a more global level, the agriculture industry across the world is coming under increasing pressure to leave less of a carbon footprint from their food producing activities – in other words to produce less greenhouse gases that damage our atmosphere.

One of the biggest culprits to be identified over the past couple of decades has been Nitrous Oxide (N2O), a gas that is naturally present in the atmosphere but that increases in proportion to fertiliser/nitrogen use on farms.

The great ‘catch’ in all of this is that with the world population shooting up each year – we’re currently over the seven billion mark – the demand for food is going to grow and grow.

To meet that demand, farmers will have to produce more crops and animals and to do this they need to keep their farms highly fertile by applying higher rates of the basic nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potash.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, agricultural emissions account for about 75% of their total N2O output, so now a huge chunk of research budgets has been allocated to try and come with some natural way of limiting the production of this substance.

Teagasc are currently involved in a European research project examining how some soil micro-organisms can naturally break down the nitrous oxide output from farms.

Scientists from Teagasc along with their counterparts in Scotland, Sweden and France have now discovered a family of soil microbes that can help to neutralise the impact of the nitrous oxide.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Northern stand-off underlines President’s independent spirit

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Roman triumph...President Michael D Higgins meeting Pope Francis last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

There was a time when becoming President was like being sent to the Missions; one day you were here and then you were gone for seven years without a trace.

Patrick Hillary’s 14 years in the office between 1976 and 1990 produced only two particularly memorable events; a disputed phone call from Brian Lenihan asking him not to dissolve the Dáil, and a press conference to deny a rumoured affair of which nobody in the media had been remotely aware.

Otherwise, like many other Presidents, Hillary’s term was relatively anonymous, another prisoner of the very circumscribed Constitutional role of a non-executive president.

The President had few powers but the few powers were important: summoning and dissolving the Dáil, appointing the Taoiseach and members of the Government, as well as referring Bills to the Supreme Court to test their constitutionality.

It was the latter power that brought the presidency of Cearbhaill Ó Dálaigh to a dramatic end in 1976, when a Fine Gael minister Paddy Donnegan slighted him by describing him as a “thundering disgrace” after his decision to refer special powers legislation to the Court.

That all changed after 1990 with the election of Mary Robinson. She enlarged the role of the office as did her successor Mary McAleese. So has Michael D Higgins and while the office is in name ‘above politics’, he more than anybody else has stretched that concept.

Last week, I travelled to Rome to cover the President’s visit to the Italian capital, his first visit abroad since the Covid-19 Pandemic in March 2020.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Changing times for the Church – but still a distance left to travel

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It’s the best part of twenty years since I delivered my one and only sermon to the masses at the Masses – in the salubrious surrounds of Mullingar Cathedral.

It wasn’t an actual sermon of course, but more a talk where the sermon should have been, on a Sunday during Lent in the year 2004.

I’d been in Rwanda with a team from Trocaire, where we’d seen tangible evidence of a world devoid of humanity, ten years after the genocide that had wiped out up to a million Tutsis in one hundred days.

Each year for their Lenten campaign, Trocaire choose a specific region in the world to highlight their work and the plight of the people there – so it might be Honduras after Hurricane Mitch, Nigeria and its endemic food poverty…or, in this case, the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda.

The sheer barbarism of what happened in this Country of a Thousand Hills will remain embedded on my brain for the rest of my days – and that was a decade after it happened. And that’s the story I was telling from the altar in Mullingar Cathedral.

I’d originally be slated down for Saturday evening Mass and then maybe one on Sunday – but I sort of got into a rhythm on Saturday night and volunteered to do all of the Masses the following day.

The final one was the Bishop’s own Mass, and Michael Smith was a man wholeheartedly committed to the work of Trocaire – so even he stood aside to let me at it.

And to crown it all, my wife and two little boys of five and four (as they were) sat in the congregation for this big finale.

But anyone with small children will know that keeping them quiet and attentive for the duration of a Mass is a job of work, and soon they began to grow restless.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Brolly goes too far in his mocking of Mayo after latest final reversal

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Cortoon Shamrocks' David Warde is challenged by Eoin Finnerty of St James’ during Saturday's senior football championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Inside Track with John McIntyre

KICKING a player and his team when they are at their lowest ebb is at its best insensitive and, at its worst, offensive. Sunday independent columnist Joe Brolly has never been a great fan of Mayo footballers or Aidan O’Shea and he again lowered the blade in the wake of the county’s latest All-Ireland final defeat.

We are all guilty of trying to justify our opinions and attitudes, but there is a time and place for everything. Brolly, an All-Ireland medal winner with Derry in 1993, perceives Mayo as serial losers and has never been slow to twist the knife when they continue to come up short on the days it most counts.

Given that the county has lost 11 All-Ireland finals plus two replays since last triumphant in 1951, Brolly has no shortage of hard evidence for backing up his claim that countless Mayo teams didn’t possess a sufficient hard edge to get the job done. The longer the title famine goes on, the more Mayo are open to accusations of lacking the bottle to get over the line.

Brolly’s withering assessment of Mayo’s disappointing loss to Tyrone last Saturday week leaves no one in any doubt about the disdain he holds for them. “Mayo is full of cliques and favourites as culture will not change under Horan who made Tyrone’s job easy.

“Time wasters. A lot of other counties would give their right arms to be here. The people of Mayo put their heart and soul into their team. And this is what they get? A manager on the sideline making choices based on political considerations. A protected captain who does not lead and never will.”

The former Sunday Game pundit didn’t hold back and probably feels his continuous personalised put downs of Mayo are justified given that they have yet to crack the All-Ireland code. Brolly, however, has gone too far this time, overstepping the mark of fair comment.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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