Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

New EU directive could see Irish farmers forced to use trailing shoe more

Thousands of farmers chose Low Emissions Slurry Spreading as a GLAS option
Thousands of farmers chose Low Emissions Slurry Spreading as a GLAS option
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

As part of revision to the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC Directive), Ireland has been assigned a target to cut the emission of ammonia by 5pc below 2005 levels by 2030.

The 5pc reduction target for ammonia, which was backed by the European Parliament last week, represents a significant challenge for Irish agriculture sector as its emission is almost entirely associated with agricultural activity.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is currently exploring various cost effective abatement options that will be required to assist with these ammonia emission reduction targets. 

Given the structure of farming in Ireland, which is predominantly based on the out-door grazing of ruminant animals, approaches to reduce the emission of ammonia will largely focus on the management of nitrogen and technologies to advance efficiencies of nitrogen use. 

According to the Department, technological measures, such as increasing the proportion of slurry applied using low emission spreading systems (LESS), provide scope for a further reduction in emissions.

The uptake of these technologies is currently being supported through TAMS and GLAS actions under the Rural Development Programme. 

Future abatement technologies will include the application of urease inhibitors; a practice which has been shown to significantly reduce ammonia emissions from the spreading of urea.

In addition, certain housing and storage related measures may offer some future abatement opportunities.

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Changing management practices

The Department says management measures directed towards improving nitrogen use efficiency will have many consequential benefits both for the environment and the farmer. 

Ammonia volatilisation reduces the fertiliser nitrogen efficiency of livestock slurry and urea, which can contribute to a loss in soil fertility, and increase chemical nitrogen replacement requirements.

Practices such as taking into account weather conditions at the time of application can therefore help reduce ammonia emissions.

Applying slurry and urea under cool weather conditions is less conducive to ammonia volatilisation and can help towards displacing chemical fertiliser need. 

Feeding management strategies, such as management of dietary protein, may offer some abatement potential for specialised sectors.

Nitrate losses

Improving nitrogen use efficiencies will also deliver co-benefits in terms of reduced nitrate losses to water and greenhouse gas emissions (nitrous oxide) to the atmosphere, the Department says. 

Therefore aligning of water, air and climate change policy objectives will enable these policies to leverage off each other in so far as common issues are of concern, particularly around the management of nitrogen. 

What is the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC)

The National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive is being reviewed under the EU Clean Air Package and seeks to limit the emission of certain air pollutants that are linked to human health concerns.

The five air pollutants covered by the NEC Directive are NOx (nitrogen oxides), SO2 (sulphur dioxide), VOC (volatile organic compounds), PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) and NH3 (ammonia).

The new air quality directive will set new air pollution reduction targets for these five pollutants and it is expected that implementation will halve the health impact of air pollution by 2030, compared to 2005. 

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), poor air quality remains the largest health hazard in Europe, resulting in a lower quality of life due to illness and an estimate 467,000 premature deaths per year.

In the case of Ireland, it is worth noting that we have among the lowest rates of premature mortality caused by poor air quality – estimated to be 2.61 deaths per 10,000 versus an EU average of 7.94 deaths per 10,000.

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