RTÉ One, Thursday, 8.30pm
Ear to the Ground

Programme 4

Ear to the Ground

In the 1970s and '80s Elm trees were all but wiped out by Dutch Elm disease. There are now fears that a similar fate could await Ash trees as an epidemic is sweeping across mainland Europe. The Department of Agriculture has just banned importation of ash plants and seeds. There are widespread concerns, however, that it may be too little, too late. There has already been a confirmed case of ash dieback in Leitrim and, as Helen Carroll discovers, the disease can spread rapidly. Over 350,000 hurleys are produced in Ireland each year using ash trees - could ash dieback signal the end of the clash of the ash?

Olive oil has become a staple in Irish kitchens. Ella McSweeney travels to Derrycamma Farm, Co. Louth to meet Carol and Patrick Rooney, producers of an Irish alternative - rape seed oil. The Rooneys have ambitions of rapeseed oil becoming to Ireland what olive oil is to Mediterranean countries. Rapeseed oil is lower in saturated fat than olive oil and contains over 10 times as much Omega 3. Oil is removed from the seed through mechanical cold pressing, without chemicals or heat. The husk can then either be mixed with other cereals to produce animal feed or as a source of fuel in solid fuel burners. Could we come to think of Irish rapeseed oil rather than olive oil as a basic kitchen essential?

In the UK, 31% of farmers have diversified into alternative enterprises compared with only 2% of farmers in Ireland. Pádraig Moran from Borrisokane is one of that 2% and as well as running his farm he takes Agricultural Science students on farm tours, sells his Bord Bia Quality Assured beef and lamb directly to consumers, and even runs a conference centre in a barn on the farm. Diversification takes investment, and at a time when money is tight, many farmers are reluctant or unable to source the capital needed. Moran's profits are up by 30% and his only regret is not having diversified sooner. Darragh Mc Cullough reports.

Ear to the Ground is produced by Independent Pictures for RTÉ

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