What can Irish agriculture do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Speaking at the Shinagh dairy farm open day on November 13, Teagasc’s Donal O’Brien highlighted the key areas where Irish agriculture can reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“Improving the technical efficiencies of farms can improve farm profitability and reduce GHG emissions,” he explained.

Therefore, this is a win-win scenario for both farmers and the environment.

Donal outlined that a Marginal Abatement Cost Curve indicates that the base line is the cost of carbon for Irish agriculture; anything above the line is associated with a cost to production, but reduces GHG emissions.

“Below the line is cost saving, therefore, improving profitability and reducing GHG emissions,” he added.

“Efficiency measures such as: animal genetics; nitrogen (N) use efficiency; soil fertility; and grass production are the main drivers of improving farm profitability and reducing emissions across all livestock farming enterprises,” he explained.

The Moorepark-based researcher also noted that using high-ranking bulls to sire more efficient progeny – high economic breeding index (EBI) dairy bulls or high terminal and replacement index beef bulls – can significantly reduce GHG emissions.

Source: Teagasc

Greenhouse gas emissions can also be reduced by changing fertiliser type, carrying out low-emission slurry spreading and improving soil fertility.

He also outlined that the cost of carbon is €22/tonne which industry and the Government are paying for and that the cost of carbon is expected to increase due to its shortage.

Source: Teagasc

Irish agriculture currently contributes to approximately 20.45 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents (Mt CO2-e) per annum and is committed to reduce emissions to 14.95 Mt CO2-e between 2021 and 2030.

In Ireland, 33% of the national GHG emissions comes from agriculture. Methane (CH4) – mainly from enteric fermentation by cattle and sheep – accounts for 64%, while nitrous oxide (N2O) from N fertiliser applications and animal N excretion accounts for 31%.