Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to Ireland's overall emissions at 33.8% of the total. In 2020, agricultural emissions had increased for 6 out of the last 7 years. The most significant drivers for the increased emissions in 2018 are higher dairy cow numbers (26.8% in the period 2013-2018) with an increase in milk production of 39.8% (EPA, 2020).
The continued implementation of the Nitrates Directive is having and will continue to have an impact on our greenhouse gas emissions, as it results in better use of nutrients with consequently less nitrogen applications and therefore less nitrous oxide emissions. Its introduction was accompanied by a grant aid scheme to help farmers comply with the provisions of the scheme.Nitrogen fertiliser use however, increased by 8.8% in 2017(EPA, 2019).
For more information, see here.
Organic farming was supported through the Department’s Organic Farming Scheme 2007-2013, and continued to be supported under the Organic Farming Action Plan 2013-2015. The Action Plan has four main objectives: increase the production base in Ireland, with a view to replacing where possible imports with Irish organic produce; promote awareness of the potential export market; seek to develop sustainable export markets for Irish organic produce as supplies become available; and to identify issues which are impeding the growth of the Organic Sector with an emphasis on developing solutions.
Most recently, a new action plan called Review of Organic Food Sector and Strategy for its Development 2019 - 2025 has been published. An Organic Sector Strategy Group was extablished in 2018 and tasked with developing a strategy for the development of the Organic Food Sector for the period up to 2025. This involved:
A review of the implementation of the 2013- 2015 Action Plan with a focus on what worked well and what did not.
Assessing the case for a targeted reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme, looking to best economic and environmental outcomes and,
Drafting a 5- 7 year strategic plan for the development of the organic sector.
The main objective of the Strategy is to further develop a viable Organic Food Sector in Ireland enhancing the sustainability credentials of Irish food producing a wide range of organic products to meet increasing domestic and export market opportunities (DAFM, 2019).
One of the specific provisions of organic farming is to avoid the use of nitrogen fertiliser. Organic farmers reduce emissions associated with fertiliser use on the farms converted to organic production.
Find out more about the Government's organic farming initiatives on their website, here.
Good Agricultural and Environmental practice
Farmers must maintain their land in good condition. This eliminates emissions associated with poor practices that could give rise to leaching or loss of soil carbon and damage to the soil structure which could damage drainage and increase nitrous oxide emissions. It also prevents the loss of soil carbon by limiting the area of grassland that can be converted to tillage.
Bioenergy Grant Aid
Energy crops can play a role in mitigating GHG emissions. That is why the Bioenergy Scheme provides establishment grants to farmers to grow willow for the production of biomass suitable for use as a renewable source of energy. The Scheme aims to increase the production of willow in Ireland and to encourage alternative land use options. The aid consists of a once off capital grant up to 40% subject to a maximum of €1,040 per hectare to facilitate the establishment of willow for use in renewable energy production. The grant-aid will be paid in respect of the ground preparation, seed purchase and planting costs. More information can be found at the Department of Agriculture.
TeagascThe national agricultural research and advisory body Teagasc have a number of activities that impact on GHG emissions from the sector.
- Research activities: This includes research work to identify the processes involved in the release of greenhouse gases from the sector and strategies to reduce these emissions. Teagasc also have a substantial programme of research aimed at improving the efficiency of production in the sector. This programme has had significant success in reducing emissions associated with food production so that food produced in Ireland has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. This programme interalia aims to increase the use of grass in the diet as well as improving other production parameters that impact on GHG emissions.
The Teagasc research and advisory programme aims to reduce costs to farmers by improving farm practices, reducing inputs, including fertilisers and introducing new farm management techniques. Many of these techniques, e.g. growing of clover in pastures, nutrient management planning, extension of the grazing season, etc, have a direct impact on the reduction of emissions at farm level.
Latest forest statistics reports can be found on the Teagasc website here. These reports outline Ireland's need to:
- Increase on a permanent basis, Ireland's forest cover to capture carbon, produce wood and help mitigation
- Increase and sustain the production of forest-based biomass to meet renewable energy targets
- Support forest holders to actively manage their plantations
- Optimise the environmental and social benefits of new and existing forests.
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