My Department, together with Teagasc, is closely monitoring the interesting research work done in Australia and Canada on the use of seaweed as a dietary supplement to reduce methane with a view to deciding if new research to validate the findings under Irish conditions is warranted. While the Australian and Canadian research does indeed look promising, a number of questions remain to be answered before it is prudent to embark on research here. These include:
- The longevity and sustainability of these reductions in the longer term (feeding trials for similarly promising substances in the past have shown that the emissions reducing effect fades over time as the microbes in the rumen adjust to the new additive).
- The impact on animal performance/animal health and effect on the livestock products (milk & meat) - is there a risk of residues in produce that may adversely impact human health?
- The quantities of seaweed required, and the collection, drying and processing could be quite expensive. Moreover, the red algae in question is not found in Ireland so may need to be imported or a suitable indigenous alternative identified.
As the Deputy may be aware, my Department operates three research funding programmes that function through competitive calls, the most recent of which closed on April 18th 2019. These support the performance of ‘public good’ type research, undertaken collaboratively by public research performing organisations with the required research capabilities. Through these programmes, and through various joint initiatives with other state bodies and European agencies, DAFM has strongly supported climate change research relevant to the Irish agri-food sector, having committed €19 million to 25 projects that include climate change elements in the period 2013-2017 alone.
My Department will continue to closely monitor the situation ensuring that any Irish research that might be undertaken in the future to reduce the carbon footprint of the Irish agriculture is customised to addressing the particulars of the Irish livestock production system.