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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture

The two interrelated global challenges of combating climate change and achieving food security are being discussed by over 450 scientists from 45 different countries, at the Greenhouse Gases & Animal Agriculture (GGAA 2013) conference in UCD, Dublin today Monday, 24 June.  

Opening the conference, Tom Hayes, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said that the Department remains committed to funding research in the area of agricultural greenhouse gases (GHG). In the period 2005 to 2012, approximately €20 million was committed to this area by the Department’s Research Stimulus Programme with the objective of building critical mass and expertise within the Irish research community and, most importantly, advancing the scientific knowledge base.

Minister Hayes said that the Department recognises the need for international collaboration and the need for all scientists to work together at a global level to strive for the scientific breakthroughs that will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions profile of the agri-food sector. In this regard, the Department of Agriculture has funded the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Initiative for Ireland under their 2010 Call. This network brings together all the principal researchers working in the area on the Island of Ireland, both North and South. “I know that this network, under the co-ordination of Teagasc, has established close working links with similar initiatives in the UK and New Zealand. Other international research initiatives such as the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and the EU Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change will also provide opportunities to develop and enhance research cooperation over the coming years,” said Minister Hayes.

This conference on Greenhouse Gases & Animal Agriculture is the fifth in a series of conferences, the last of which was held in Banff, Canada in 2010. It’s being organised by Teagasc and University College Dublin, and supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the EPA and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, and Ministry for Primary Industries. The conference continues until Wednesday, 26 June.

Speaking at the Conference, Dr Frank O’Mara, Director of Research at Teagasc said that agriculture globally has an emissions challenge. Improved efficiency can do a lot to reduce GHG emissions footprint, but there is also an urgent need to find breakthrough mitigation and adaption solutions.

Ireland has environmentally friendly grass-based feed production systems of dairy and beef production, which provides Ireland with a significant competitive advantage. It allows high quality food production with some of the lowest food carbon intensities at EU and global level, on a per unit produced basis.  Sustainability is central to Ireland’s agricultural expansion plans as outlined in the Food Harvest 2020 report. It aims to achieve sustainable growth, through increased efficiency, achieving higher productivity and greater competitiveness in primary agriculture.

Teagasc recently produced a ‘Marginal Abatement Cost Curve’ for GHG emissions in Ireland, which demonstrates the potential impact of measures such as management, improved genetics and more efficient use of resources. “Teagasc has also developed a knowledge transfer tool called the ‘Carbon Navigator’ which can be used to give guidance to farmers on measures they can adopt to reduce their GHG emissions and improve profitability ,” said Dr O’Mara.