Farm businesses are already taking practical steps to help reduce emissions and tackle climate change, according to Northern Ireland Agriculture and Environment Minister, Edwin Poots.

The minister was speaking at the ‘Agriculture and Climate Change: A Countryside COP event’ at College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Greenmount campus, where he also announced a new Soil Nutrient Health Scheme for NI.

It was jointly organised by Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) in advance of COP26.

Minister Poots said: “Next week the UK Government will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, also known COP26, in Glasgow. While COP26 will have a global focus, we all have a role to play when it comes to tackling climate change.”

Agriculture and climate change

Those attending the ‘countryside COP’ event heard about the work of DAERA and others to help support the industry on its decarbonisation mission.

Participants were given practical examples of ways in which farm businesses can and are reducing emissions,e.g. the ARCZero project, and the work being led by CAFRE on carbon calculators.

Minister Poots continued: “At this moment in time, agriculture, along with transport, energy and buildings are amongst the big emitters of greenhouse gases [GHG] in Northern Ireland.

“The future is about delivering both food and environmental outcomes in a sustainable way. Our farmers are up for the challenge and, indeed, many have already invested in green technology and embraced environmentally-friending farming practices.”

Soil Nutrient Health Scheme

L-r: Victor Chestnutt, UFU; Dr. Elizabeth Magowan, AFBI; Minister Edwin Poots; Aleathea Brown, CAFRE; Alice Stanton, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; and Dr.John Gilliland OBE, Devenish Nutrition

The minister emphasised his desire for Northern Ireland to take advantage of the opportunity to develop a sustainable agricultural industry.

He said: “It is my focus, and that of my department, to ensure that we have sustainable agri-food, fisheries and forestry sectors, which help to create a clean, healthy environment that benefits people, nature and the economy in alignment with the Executive’s ‘green growth’ approach.

“With this in mind, I am delighted to announce the launch of a new Soil Nutrient Health Scheme for Northern Ireland.

“This is an innovative and forward looking soil sampling and carbon analysis scheme aimed at building from the ground up, by putting an increasing emphasis on improved soil nutrient health and farm carbon, and I will be making this scheme available to all farmers.

The minister explained that when operational, the new scheme will – for the first time – provide farmers with detailed information on soil nutrient levels for every field on their farm – along with an estimate of the amount of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows and trees.

“My department has successfully piloted this concept, which is why I’m confident that providing farmers with detailed information specific to their own lands, will help them farm more sustainably. Further details on the soil scheme will be made available next month,” the minister added.