Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Ceisteanna (392)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

392. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has been provided calculations by Teagasc of the potential amount of land that is not under grass that might be available for conversion to tillage or agroforestry without the loss of soil carbon; the basis for claims by Teagasc scientists that conversion from grassland, beef and dairy to tillage crops would result in net increases of greenhouse gas emissions on a life cycle basis; and his views on the recommendation by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action for diversification measures to ensure that Ireland can become more food secure by growing more tillage crops. [38349/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I refer to my previous reply to the Deputy (PQ ref. 37602­­/19) regarding the potential amount of land that is not under grass that might be available for conversion to tillage or agroforestry without the loss of soil carbon.

It is important to note that from a policy perspective, conversion of permanent grassland into tillage land is restricted to a maximum of 5% under current CAP regulations.

Furthermore, I am aware that ploughing permanent pasture for tillage results in a loss of soil carbon which somewhat offsets the benefits of reductions in the short-lived greenhouse gas methane (CH4). Our understanding of this trade-off is still evolving. Nevertheless, there is a need to address emissions of GHG from ruminant livestock farming systems. Teagasc has published a suite of GHG mitigation measures for Irish agriculture that can assist in achieving this objective, without the negative impacts of converting grassland to tillage.

Currently, Teagasc is exploring the capacity to increase GHG mitigation via enhancing soil sequestration. This research is supported by DAFM, EPA, EU and international bodies and is being conducted in conjunction with Irish and European Universities/research performing organization.

(See Table 1 below for further details)

Project Title

Funder

Institutes

Value(€ millions)

Period

Evaluating land-use and land management impacts on soil organic carbon in Irish agricultural systems (Agri SOC)

DAFM RSF fund

Teagasc, TCD, UL

0.6

2018-2022

Agricultural greenhouse gas research initiative Ireland (Agri I-I)

DAFMRSF fund

Teagasc, TCD, UCD, AFBI, UL

2012-2018

Full inversion tillage to accelerate soil C sequestration (Burying Carbon)

NZ MPI GPLER fund

Teagasc, Plant & Food Research NZ, TCD

0.04

2017-2020

Land management, assessment, research, knowledge base (Land Mark)

EU Horizon 2020

22 including Teagasc from 17 countries

5.3

2015-2019 (on-going)

Demonstration actions to mitigate carbon footprint of beef production in Ireland, France, Italy and Spain (LIFE BEEF CARBON)

EU LIFE

Teagasc, Bord Bia, Institut D’Elevage, CREA, ASPROVAC,

5.5

2016-2020 (On-going)

Soil quality assessment and research (SQUARE)

DAFM RSF fund

Teagasc, UL, UCD, Sligo IT

1.0

2013-2018

I am committed to promoting diversification of activity at farm level, in line with the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action report and in the wider rural economy to restructure agriculture to more sustainable land uses that will yield secure family farm income in the longer term.

Agriculture and land-use can positively contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy and society and can and will play its part.