A cross-border project to cut methane emissions from agriculture in Ireland and Northern Ireland is underway as part of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine-funded research into climate change and the environment.

The ‘Meth-Abate’ project is described as the “development and validation of novel technologies to reduce methane emissions from pasture-based Irish agricultural systems”.

The research is carried out by Teagasc, collaborating with National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), Queen’s University Belfast and Northern Ireland’s Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

The project is funded by the department here, with co-funding from the north’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), for total funding of around €1.25 million.

A department document outlining the project says: “Agriculture is the single largest contributor to overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, accounting for the majority of methane emissions produced in both jurisdictions, primarily due to ruminant livestock production.

“Methane, a GHG 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, is released as a by-product of rumen microbial fermentation and from stored manure and slurry on-farm,” the document continues.

Under EU legislation, Ireland has committed to reduce GHG emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, while the UK has targeted a reduction of 34% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Because of this, the document argues, there is “an urgent requirement for innovative strategies to reduce methane emissions from agriculture on the entire Ireland of Ireland”.

“The aim of this cross-institutional, cross-jurisdictional, multidisciplinary proposal is to develop novel farm-ready technologies to reduce methane emissions from ruminant fermentation and stored manure and slurry,” the document explains.

It continues: “Specifically, we will investigate a number of promising feed additives to mitigate methane emissions from sheep, dairy and beef production, while simultaneously monitoring their effects on animal productivity, and novel technologies to reduce methane losses from stored manures.

“For pasture-based delivery, technologies for ‘encapsulation’ to ensure slow release [of methane] and early-life supplementation strategies will be developed.

The effect of these technologies on the nutritional and toxicological composition of meat and milk will be investigated to confirm consumer safety of ruminant products.

Sequencing and bioinformatics technologies will also be used to see how these interventions will work in the rumen and in manure.

“To ensure appropriate implementation, we will develop a new methane additive component for the existing Teagasc Life Cycle (LC) Analysis models to quantify the LC effect of developed technologies on overall methane and GHG emissions,” the department document adds.

The cost effectiveness at farm-level for this will be evaluated through the Teagasc National Farm Survey, according to the department.

The document does not refer to herd sizes in relation to the Meth-Abate project, which is expected to run until November of 2023.