Reduction in emissions in agriculture ‘reflects work ongoing at farm level’

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture reflects the work that is ongoing at farm level to increase efficiency and reduce emissions.

This is according to the Irish Farmers’ Association’s National Environment Committee chairman Paul O’Brien, who was commenting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) report released today (Friday, November 20).

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Agriculture emissions decreased by 3.9% (0.86 Mt CO2eq) in 2019. This was driven by reduced fertiliser use (down 10.1%) and a reduction in the quantity of lime used on soils (down 25.4%), which had both increased substantially the previous year.

“The reduced emission figures for agriculture clearly show that farmers are stepping up and are playing their part in climate action,” O’Brien said.

He urged “caution” in relation to attributing reductions in lime usage to reductions in emissions because, long-term, liming is proven to reduce emissions, specifically nitrous oxide.

O’Brien says the benefits of lime are recognised in the Programme for Government, which outlines plans for a ‘national liming programme’ to improve nitrogen use and efficiency.

“I would be concerned that farmers are receiving very mixed messages on liming,” he continued.

Research from Teagasc has shown that increasing soil pH by liming resulted in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and increased grassland productivity, compared to the un-limed plots under the same management and fertiliser regime.

“Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) and the increased usage of protected urea were important changes adopted by farmers that were reducing emissions.

“The EPA report emphasises the importance of improving the data collection in agriculture, so an evidence-based approach can be taken to meet climate targets that accurately reflects the actual emissions and sequestration in the sector.”