August 15, 2022
No significant increase in emissions from Ireland's agricultural sector, agriculture body official says
The president of the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) in Ireland has called for a more reasoned debate around emissions from the Irish agricultural sector.
Dr. George Ramsbottom said that there has not been a big increase in emissions from the sector in recent years, adding that contributors should "stick to the facts".
He added: "As farmers and agricultural scientists alike come to grips with the targets, it's important that the facts aren't lost in the drive to reduce emissions.
"Dairy cow numbers haven't exploded. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) database, we had 1.505 million dairy cows in Ireland in December 2021, but we had 1.523 million of them in December 1984.
"The introduction of milk quotas in 1984 resulted in a decline in cow numbers to approximately one million in the early 2000s and their recovery was prompted by quota removal in 2015.
"While large, we haven't seen a big increase in emissions from agriculture either. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Irish agriculture is responsible for 37.5% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2021.
"However, their data also shows that while agriculture produced 23,097kT of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 2021, the sector also produced 22,933kT of CO2equivalent in 1998."
Dr. Ramsbottom said that Irish agricultural scientists are playing a pivotal role in the development and adoption of emission-reducing technologies. He added that some options are already in use, including protected urea which has 70% lower GHG emissions compared to traditional nitrogen fertilisers and the establishment of white clover in grass swards, which can cut nitrogen usage by up to 50%.
"Other initiatives in development include feed additives such as 3-nitrooxypropanol (3-NOP) which reduces methane emissions by 30%," said Dr. Ramsbottom. "It's estimated that 98% of methane emissions in Ireland come from Irish agriculture."