‘We cannot continue talking about injection slurry systems’

Concerns regarding the spreading of slurry were raised this morning (Thursday, July 12) as a report on climate change was published by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Offering 35 recommendations for tackling climate challenges in the agricultural, marine and environmental sector, the report – entitled ‘Climate Change and Sustainability in the Agriculture and Food Sectors’ – was welcomed in the main by the stakeholders present in Leinster House.

Also Read: Storm and heatwave supports urged in climate change report

However, given the heavy rainfall experienced in recent years, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association’s (INHFA’s) Gerry Loftus voiced concerns regarding references to increasing production levels and meeting our climate change targets.

On the topic of slurry, he said: “When we talked about and implemented Food Wise 2025, we had no plans for slurry.

We cannot continue down the road of talking about injection slurry systems and so on and so forth; because, at the end of the day, [slurry] will end up in the rivers – whether we like it or whether we don’t.

“We need to stop turning a blind eye to it and making excuses and saying this will work and that will work; these things won’t work anymore if we get torrential rains,” Loftus argued.

Anaerobic digestion

In the report, it is recommended that a scheme be introduced which helps to increase the number of anaerobic digesters being used by farmers and producers in Ireland.

It is hoped that the increased use of anaerobic digesters would reduce the amount of slurry that would need to be spread on agricultural land.

Any schemes should provide financial supports for the installation of such digesters, as well as a reward for the use of such equipment, the report added.

Continuing, it states anaerobic digestion (AD) involves the process of treating biowaste (such as slurry) with a catalyst (grain for example) within a digestor.

This results in the formation of two products: biogas – which can be harvested and used to generate energy through combined heat and power; and biofertiliser – which may serve as an alternative to nitrate-based fertiliser, the report explained.

Challenges

Commenting on the matter, Sinn Fein’s agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny acknowledged that there are some challenges that need to be addressed to increase the use of anaerobic digesters.

He said: “There are complications around it – but that’s not to say that we don’t need to do something about it.

Slurry is a problem and we can’t hide from it; we do need to deal with it. Continually building bigger tanks to store more of it doesn’t solve the problem.

“It’s going to end up out on the land. If we continue getting the level of rainfall we got in spring, it’s going to cause problems down the road.”

Concluding, the Sligo-Leitrim TD outlined that advances in science and technology in recent years in terms of anaerobic digestion have opened up new avenues to explore.

He explained that it is now possible to look at a by-product of agriculture and turn into something that “can be a benefit and a profit for the farmer, as well as a benefit for the whole country”.