'Options to reduce fertiliser use will need to be implemented at farm level' - EPA

Ireland breached ammonia limits in 2016 and 2017

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The EPA today said that options to reduce fertiliser use will need to be implemented at farm level, after it found that ammonia levels are on an upward trend.

The EPA published figures for emissions of five key air pollutants.

These pollutants impact the environment and health contributing to respiratory problems and pollution of soil, surface water and vegetation.

This latest information from the EPA shows that ammonia emissions increased by 2pc in 2017, which followed a 5pc increase in 2016.

Agriculture dominates emissions of ammonia which arise from the decomposition of animal manures and the application of fertiliser.

This trend in increasing emissions is projected to continue out to 2030.

In addition, emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds showed an increase in 2017.  These pollutants arise from the food and beverage industry and the storage and handling of animal manures and synthetic fertilisers.

Non-methane volatile organic compound emissions are projected to increase slightly to 2030 as the gains from switching to less polluting sources are outweighed by increased economic activity and population growth.

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Ireland is therefore projected to exceed the more challenging 2030 non-methane volatile organic compounds emission ceiling, despite being in compliance for 2020.

Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of Office of Environmental Sustainability said in tandem with increased agricultural production, and ammonia emission have breached national limits in 2016 and 2017. 

"This has implications for air and water quality.

"The underlying driver for these emissions is the application of more animal manure to soils — mostly as an organic fertiliser — and the increase in the use of inorganic fertilisers. Options to increase efficiencies and reduce fertiliser use will need to be implemented at farm level.”

Emissions of other air pollutants – sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter – decreased in 2017.

"This reflects a general downward trend in emissions since 1990 reflecting the impact of fuel switching from coal and peat to natural gas, penetration of renewables and technology improvements," Cotter said.

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