Ireland’s emissions of greenhouse gas from agriculture are among the highest in the world, relatively speaking, but scientists here say that technological solutions are emerging that can provide significant cuts in such gases without resorting to drastic culling of herd numbers.

Agriculture and land use in Ireland produces 37.1% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions; higher than the global average of around 25%. Most emissions from global agriculture – about 60 per cent – arise from digestion inside the stomachs of livestock. It is there that microbes slowly break down the grasses and other foods consumed by ruminant animals, which produces the greenhouse gas, methane.

Scientists are researching strategies to reduce animal methane emissions produced through this digestive action. Gary Lanigan, a research officer with Teagasc, is looking at the merits of a range of scientific means to reduce agricultural emissions. “We’ve been looking at adding in chemical amendments into slurry,” says Lanigan, “acidifying the slurry reduces methane emissions successfully, actually, we see about a 90 per cent reduction.”

Research studies have also shown that a chemical called 3-NOP (3-nitrooxypropanol) has great potential to reduce emissions of methane from dairy cows. The chemical works by disrupting an enzyme in the rumen needed to produce methane. The emissions are thus stopped at source, inside the animal’s stomach.

Read the full unabridged article on the Irish Times website here.

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