It is technically feasible to achieve Food Harvest 2020 targets while flat-lining greenhouse gas emissions, according to Teagasc.

In its submission on the potential for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) mitigation within the agriculture and forestry sector it said the initial dairy expansion up to 2020 will ‘fill the headroom’ in production that has been created by 30 years of production constraints in the quota environment.

It is likely that the Food Harvest 2020 will be achieved through a combination of changing animal demography and further increases in efficiency, rather than through an increase in total bovine numbers.

As a result, Teagasc says it is technically feasible to achieve Food Harvest 2020 targets while flat-lining greenhouse gas emissions.

However, it does say that a potential post-2020 strategy of further expansion, additional to Food Harvest 2020, is likely to be much more substantially based on a direct increase in dairy cow numbers.

It says while such a further expansion could still result in a continued reduction of the emission intensity of Irish produce, it may prove difficult to achieve this further increase in dairy cow numbers without an absolute increase in national agricultural GHG emissions.

Teagasc envisage that it will develop and publish a second version of the agricultural MACC for Irish agriculture in 2016, with a time horizon of 2025.

It says on-going research into new technologies and measurement of GHG mitigation has identified a number of additional mitigation options which will be considered in the development of this second iteration of the MACC.

These include the use of sexed semen, use of novel low-emission fertiliser mixes, inclusion of animal health programmes and enhanced carbon sequestration.

Teagasc says in its submission that it remains challenging to capture the efficacy of mitigation measures in the national agricultural inventory.

It says while inventories can account for measures that reduce the amount of an activity (e.g. the amount of fertiliser), they cannot account for qualitative changes (e.g. fertiliser type).

As a result, progress in agricultural mitigation is likely to be higher than can be reported in the national inventories, it says.

Teagasc’s full submission can been seen here.