Boyle: Bulk of environmental adjustments will have to be made by dairy

Any environmental changes which will be required in the agricultural sector will cost money – and the bulk of the adjustments will have to be made by the dairy sector, according to director of Teagasc Prof. Gerry Boyle.

Prof. Boyle was speaking on the topic of environmental efficiency changes on RTE Radio 1‘s Morning Ireland today (Wednesday, March 27) in response to Teagasc’s report yesterday which found that dairy farms produce three times more greenhouse gas emissions than beef enterprises.

In relation to how farmers can reduce emissions, the director pointed to a number of measures, including: making the change from CAN fertilisers to protected urea; boxing clever with their breeding programmes; and using low-emission slurry spreading for injecting organic manure into the ground.

“There are a number of fixes; but the afforestation is hugely important from a sequestration point of view.

We produce about 19 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent from the agricultural sector. Sequestration from forestry could potentially contribute a saving of 2 million tonnes.

“So it’s hugely significant that we drive on the afforestation agenda,” Prof. Boyle said.

He was quizzed on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change’s report of recommendations, due to be published tomorrow – which is believed will recommend a “fundamental redirection of Irish agriculture” away from a reliance on dairy and beef and move towards horticulture.

In response to this, Prof. Boyle said he would not see it as realistic, citing Ireland’s pasture-based system and the fact that Irish land is not suitable for “widespread adoption of horticulture or cereal crops”.

He also highlighted the wide variation in farm income, noting that dairy farming is by far the most profitable enterprise at present, currently double the income generation of second-placed tillage.

“There are very low levels of profitability outside of dairying. The tillage sector generates an income of about half the levels of dairying.

When you go down to the other sectors, mainly livestock sectors like cattle and sheep, the income levels are exceptionally low.

“So any environmental changes which will be required in the agricultural sector will cost money and the bulk of the adjustments will have to be made by the dairy sector,” the Teagasc director concluded.

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