Sales of protected urea remained at low levels compared to other fertilisers, despite claims it could provide the single largest emission reduction potential for Irish farmers.
The Department of Agriculture has targeted 50pc replacement of CAN (either straight or in compounds) applied to grassland with protected urea products as early as 2021 as part efforts to reduce emissions.
If Irish farmers switched entirely to protected urea instead of straight CAN, Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions would be reduced by the equivalent of 200,000 dairy cows.
However, figures obtained by the Farming Independent show that despite sales of protected urea increasing by 180pc in Q1 of 2020 to 17,689t it remains only a small proportion of the overall nitrogen fertiliser sales.
Protected urea accounted for just 7pc of the 240,172t of straight nitrogen fertiliser sold during the first three months of 2020. A further 452,000t of compound fertiliser containing nitrogen was also sold.
Overall fertiliser sales totalled over 711,000t, up over 10pc on the same period last year.
Teagasc trials have found that protected urea had 71pc lower GHG emissions than CAN and 79pc lower ammonia-N emissions than urea.
A Teagasc spokesperson said changing practice on farms takes time.
"Farmers have been using the same fertiliser products for years, so they are slow to change," he said.
Teagasc is providing information on the benefits of using protected urea in terms of both the environment and production.
"Protected urea is being used on all Teagasc research and college farms so we are demonstrating its benefits for farmers to see for themselves, while our researchers in Johnstown Castle are continuing to increase our knowledge around the product," the spokesperson said.
However, the chairperson of ICMSA's farm services committee, Denis Drennan, said that last summer he had identified a "lack of energy" in co-ops' promotion of protected urea and that had not been rectified.
"Increased use of lime and protected urea on farms alongside using meals with lower crude protein contents at grass are areas we should focus on to lower GHG emissions on farms," he said.
Farmers - certainly ICMSA - do not consider any of those changes to be controversial, but we need co-op support, particularly at the 'sales' end, to encourage their uptake."
At store level, Mr Drennan said farmers are just not seeing the sales staff actively offering the environmentally safer products.
A spokesperson for Dairy Industry Ireland said the sector has engaged with the Department regarding the use of protected urea.
"We are aware that a lot of research is being undertaken on protected urea and that until such time as more data is available, a measured approach around the use of protected urea, with a shift in use over a longer period, is anticipated."