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Funding a better future

The Agricultural and Land-Use sector is facing an unprecedented challenge to reduce greenhouse emissions and increase carbon removal activities to meet national and international climate targets.

The Agricultural and Land-Use sector is facing an unprecedented challenge to reduce greenhouse emissions and increase carbon removal activities to meet national and international climate targets. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s investment in research and development is key in meeting these challenges.

 The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is the third biggest department for government expenditure on R&D in Ireland, with agriculture, food and forestry accounting for almost 11% of the total public research support. DAFM’s support is focused on public good research and, through the Programme for Government, is mandated to invest in research in the agri-food, forest and bio-based sectors, prioritising areas such as climate and the bioeconomy.

 As a sectoral research funder, complementary to the activities of other public research funders, we have close collaboration with key agencies such as Science Foundation Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the Health Research Board. Such collaboration is vital to ensure overall alignment of our respective roles. DAFM’s own investment in research has totalled over €244 million since 2010. With the challenge of addressing agriculture’s impact on climate change, more recently in the last six years, DAFM has allocated €30 million funding for research on climate, greenhouse gas emission mitigation, adaptation, inventory and climate-related co-benefit research.

Increased focus on climate and environment research

Most recently, in the Department’s 2021 Thematic Research Call, almost €16 million was awarded to 14 projects in the area of climate and environment. This allocation represented 53% of the overall awards from the 2021 call, thus showing the current relevance and importance that DAFM places on research in the agri-climate and environmental research areas. The Department is investing significantly in research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, refine the national inventory and improve carbon sequestration from agriculture. For example, work from DAFM-funded projects such as ‘GreenBreed’ and ‘MethAbate’ have shown strong potential for a pipeline of scientific advancements that can contribute to methane emission reduction.

Similarly, a key research focus of DAFM has been improving nitrogen-use efficiency in pastures and developing reduced nitrogen input grassland systems, especially with the improved design of multispecies swards, to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Notably, the DAFM-funded project SMARTSWARD, led by UCD, has demonstrated that cattle on multi-species swards can have significantly reduced fertiliser inputs into the pasture system, but also that the cattle can be finished to slaughter weight 34 days earlier than those on perennial ryegrass swards. Further research funded by DAFM through the Teagasc-led project Multi4More is further investigating the emissions profile of multispecies swards; with both these projects feeding into key measures of the recent Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) that includes to reduce to reduce finishing age at slaughter and reduce nitrogen fertiliser inputs. As well as building on investments in existing research areas, there has been a focused movement towards increasing investments in research on land-use management, water table management and soil organic carbon to improve carbon sequestration, reduce land emissions to the atmosphere and to feed into national inventory refinements, building on the Department’s National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory investment. 

Words by: John Harrison, Programme Manager

Environment and Climate Research, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Picture Credits: Teagasc