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Teagasc Protected Urea Trial - Results

A recent peer-reviewed paper has confirmed that no residues of either NBPT or NBPTo were found in any of over 500 milk samples taken from milk produced by cows, fed grass fertilised with Protected Urea.

As part of the Teagasc conducted research, a highly sensitive and validated analytical method for the detection of the urease inhibitor NBPT and NBPTo in the matrix of milk was developed by Teagasc researchers at its Ashtown campus.

Previous research confirmed the benefits of switching to Protected Urea in terms of reducing emissions from Irish agriculture, concerns were raised about the potential for protected urea residues to appear in milk. The paper details the sampling and testing of milk from the Teagasc, Johnstown Castle dairy herd, where protected urea is used as the N source, for residues using the new analytical method.

Dr Martin Danaher, Principal Research Officer in the Teagasc Food Safety Department said; “Residues were not found in bulk tank or individual cow milk samples from dairy cows grazing pastures fertilised with urea protected with the urease inhibitor NBPT (The limit of quantitation of the method was 2 parts per billion. The method was 25 times more sensitive than previous methods). 

Dr Patrick Forrestal, Senior Research Officer in the Teagasc Crops, Environment and Land Use Programme said: “Extensive trials by Teagasc over the past nine years have shown protected urea to be a solid yield performer in Irish grassland and thus a reliable fertiliser option for farmers. Not finding residues in the milk of cows grazing pastures fertilised with protected urea, even when using a highly sensitive method, gives further reassurance that protected urea can be part of a toolbox of solutions for Irish agriculture to meet the challenges ahead.”  

Farmers in Ireland are being encouraged to switch from using CAN fertiliser to protected Urea, as part of the sector’s drive to reduce emissions from agriculture.

Dr Karl Richards, Head of the Teagasc Environment, Soils and Land Use Research Department said: “Protected urea is a key practice change in the Teagasc MACC that farmers can simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the carbon foot print of their products and reduce fertiliser costs. This research is critically important to reassure the dairy industry that no residues were found in milk.”

The full scientific paper can be openly accessed here https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/26/10/2890