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Teagasc Climate Action Strategy - The Urgent Actions

Teagasc Climate Action Strategy - The Urgent Actions

The climate challenge requires a whole of sector co-ordinated response to move the industry forward. Teagasc, through its MACC curve, has set out how the agriculture and food system can evolve over the short and medium term to meet its climate obligations.

climate action key areas wheel graphic, details in text below image

To support the need for early and decisive action at farm level, Teagasc plans to accelerate its research, advisory and education activity in the following areas:

Reduce Nitrogen Emissions

Develop and implement new production systems with a lower dependence on chemical Nitrogen fertilisers.

Immediate actions include:

  • Greater use of red and white clover in grazing systems
  • Improved soil fertility/health
  • Reduce crude protein in both bovine and pig diets
  • Develop precision grazing technologies and fertiliser technologies.


How Does It Work?

Clover fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere.  Nitrogen fixation is the name of this process whereby white clover can fix N from the atmosphere and make it available for plant growth, thereby reducing the requirement for chemical Nitrogen.

Benefits of white clover

The benefits of white clover tend to occur from May onwards as sward white clover content increases. The main benefits of white clover inclusion in grass swards are:

    • Increased herbage quality compared to grass-only swards in the summer months.
    • Increased dry matter (DM) intake in summer and autumn.
    • Higher milk production and live weight gain.
    • Nitrogen fixation – white clover fixes nitrogen (N) from the atmosphere making it available for plant growth.

Reduce Methane Emissions

Develop and implement new breeding, feeding and management strategies to minimise the losses of methane from animals and slurries.

Immediate actions include:

The generation of specific enteric methane emission factors for Irish grass-based systems; evaluation of feed additives and inhibitors; earlier slaughter of prime beef cattle; breeding lower enteric emitting animals; reducing methane emissions from slurry.

What is Methane (CH4)?

Methane is a colourless, odourless gas occurring abundantly in nature and as a product of certain human activities. Its chemical formula is CH4. Globally, it is the second most important greenhouse gas (GHG). Its contribution to global warming is estimated at 28 times that of carbon dioxide, over a 100 year period. Once produced, methane persists in the atmosphere for around 12 years after which it is eventually broken down into carbon dioxide and water. 

Methane and Agriculture

Ruminant livestock have a unique ability to convert grass into high quality sources of dairy and meat protein for human consumption. In the rumen or forestomach of ruminant livestock there is a microbial ecosystem with bacteria, archaea, protozoa and fungi, collectively known as the rumen microbiome. This microbial ecosystem allows ruminant livestock to obtain nutrition from plant matter. Biogenic methane is a natural by product of this process, it is commonly known as enteric methane. It is estimated that 90-95% of enteric methane is expelled from the rumen in the breath of the animal (eructation) with the remainder a product of flatulence.

What are the Solutions?

  1. Animal breeding - breed animals which emit less methane; this is a long term strategy
  2. Dietary supplementation/management - feeding of methane reducing supplements
  3. Improved animal health – a healthy animal will be more productive during its lifetime 
  4. Lifetime performance/age at slaughter – slaughtering prime beef animals at a younger age will reduce the volume of methane produced over the animal’s lifetime.

Increase Carbon Capture

Develop and manage crops and land in new ways to capture and minimise release of carbon so that land will become an overall carbon sink

Immediate actions include:

The generation of Irish specific emission factors related to soil type, land use and management; increased afforestation and the impact of afforestation on soil carbon fluxes, evaluate the influence of hedgerow and hedgerow management on soil carbon fluxes; increasing the use of cover crops in tillage; evaluate the influence of water table management/rewetting of organic soils on soil carbon emissions.

Enhance Biodiversity

Provide nature-based solutions for areas such as climate, water, carbon management and flood mitigation.

Immediate actions include:

Enhancing biodiversity in all farming systems; include an assessment of biodiversity in the National Farm Survey; developing effective farm scale biodiversity indicators supported by use of digital technologies; improve the biodiversity management plans for High Nature Value farming and forestry systems.

Increase Diversification

Develop alternative land uses & rural businesses that offer viable economic returns and have lower emissions than traditional ruminant based production systems.

Immediate actions include:

Increased activity in organic farming, horticulture and forestry as well as anaerobic digestion for bio-methane production.

Enhance Adaptation

Plan how to adapt our production systems to be more resilient as we prepare for increased risk of higher temperatures, drought and more regular extreme weather events.

Immediate actions include:

The production and management of resilient grasses and forages for the future Irish grass-based production systems; new crops and cropping systems; new pest and weed control.

Posssible impact of climate change on Irish Agriculture

Current projections for Irish climate for the middle of the present century suggest:

  • Winters will be significantly warmer than at present
  • Summers will also be warmer with the greatest warming away from the coasts.
  • Winters are likely to be wetter in most parts, by up to 20% in the west, while summers are likely to be drier 


Adaptations required may include:

  • earlier planting and harvesting dates
  • capital investment in irrigation equipment
  • dealing with relatively rare plant diseases
  • farm animals suffererig more from a range of tick-borne pathogens.

Farmers will also need to be aware of opportunities which arise as a result of adverse changes in agriculture elsewhere in the EU. Adverse impacts of climate change on agricultural production elsewhere in the EU may create new market opportunities

Circular Food System

Develop food products to support new value chains and promote C by reducing waste and energy while improving nutrition per kg CO2eq

Immediate actions include:

Reducing food waste, eco-friendly packaging and alternative protein sources.

Supporting Policy

Increase our capability to inform and support policy and calculation of national inventories through coherent objective analysis of the emerging Sustainable Irish Food System.

Immediate actions include:

Regularly updating the MACC, in collaboration with the EPA providing science-based Irish specific emission factors in the national inventory, and contributing science based policy advice on climate change, agriculture and land use at a national and international level.

For more information and to read the Climate Action Strategy document visit www.teagasc.ie/climateaction