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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Biomethane can reduce on-farm emissions without reducing the national herd

A new report has highlighted the benefits of an Irish biomethane industry for farmers and the environment.

Devenish Nutrition and KPMG Sustainable Futures have published the Sustainability of Biomethane Production in Ireland report.

They claim that agriculturally-produced biomethane can be delivered sustainably and at scale to help reduce on-farm emissions and decarbonise Ireland’s energy system without:

  • Reducing the national herd;
  • Disrupting food production;
  • Intensifying agricultural activities;
  • Impacting on biodiversity.

Biomethane industry Ireland

The report draws on existing academic research, data, and on-farm experience from the Dowth Research Farm, a designated ‘Lighthouse Farm’ in Meath.

Using real-world data, it produces internationally recognised farm research focused on the scientific understanding of sustainable agriculture production and practices.

The report concludes that an Irish agriculture-led biomethane industry developed according to international best practice is aligned with current and emerging policy direction and can meet the EU Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II) requirements, both now and in the future.

It found that the process for producing biomethane could reduce the direct application of raw slurry to land.

It said the resulting digestate by-product could displace chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This would decrease ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions and improve soil quality and soil carbon sequestration.

Devenish Nutrition’s sustainable agricultural manager, David Hagan, said:

“The challenge of addressing on-farm emissions has emerged as one of the most difficult pieces of the climate policy jigsaw.”

“Ensuring a sustainable livelihood for primary producers and supporting growth in our food industries while also protecting our environment is both critical and challenging.”

“This report outlines how Ireland can deliver a sustainable, agriculture-led biomethane industry.”

Ag emissions up 1.4% in 2020

According to the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) latest provisional figures, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 3.6% in 2020.

Its data shows the reduction is 0.4% less than that seen the previous year.

It reports that agriculture emissions increased by 1.4% in 2020. It said increased activity in all areas” drove this figure.

The EPA stated agriculture emissions have increased by 12% over the last decade.

The agency listed the following as “key” drivers of 2020 increases in agriculture emissions:

  • Increased fertiliser nitrogen use (3.3%);
  • Also, increased numbers of livestock, including dairy cows (3.2%), other cattle (0.6%), sheep (4.8%) and pigs (2.5%).
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