• An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030

      Lanigan, Gary; Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Carsten, Paul; Shalloo, Laurence; Krol, Dominika; Forrestal, Patrick J.; Farrelly, Niall; O’Brien, Donal; Ryan, Mary; et al. (Teagasc, 2018-06-10)
      This report has been prepared by the Teagasc Working Group on GHG Emissions, which brings together and integrates the extensive and diverse range of organisational expertise on agricultural greenhouse gases. The previous Teagasc GHG MACC was published in 2012 in response to both the EU Climate and Energy Package and related Effort Sharing Decision and in the context of the establishment of the Food Harvest 2020 production targets.
    • Good water status: The integration of sustainable grassland production and water resources in Ireland

      Richards, Karl G.; Fenton, Owen; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Haria, Atul H.; Humphreys, James; Doody, Donnacha G.; Moles, Richard; Morgan, Ger; Jordan, Philip; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; et al. (School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2009)
      The challenge for sustainable grassland production is to integrate economically profitable farming systems with environmental protection. The Water Framework Directive aims to attain at least “good status” for all waters by 2015, to be achieved through the introduction of measures across all sectors of society. Historically, the impact of grassland agriculture on water quality was investigated in isolation. More recently it has been highlighted that water quality and other environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions must be considered in an integrated manner. Catchment hydrology is critical to understanding the drivers behind nutrient transport to surface water and groundwaters. Flashy catchments are more susceptible to phosphorus, sediment and ammonium loss, whereas contrastingly baseflow dominated catchments are more susceptible to nitrate transport. Understanding catchment hydrology enables the targeting of measures for the mitigation of diffuse agricultural contaminants. This increased understanding can also be used to support extended deadlines for the achievement of good status. This paper reviews the potential effects of grassland agriculture on water quantity and the transport of pesticides and nutrients to water in the context of achieving good status for all waters by 2015 under the Water Framework Directive.
    • Grassland Phosphorus and Nitrogen Fertiliser Replacement value of Dairy Processing Dewatered Sludge

      Ashekuzzaman, S.M.; Forrestal, Patrick; Richards, Karl G.; Daly, Karen; Fenton, Owen; Enterprise Ireland; Dairy Industry Partners; TC2014 0016 (Elsevier, 21-11-20)
      Dairy processing sludge is currently a bio-based fertiliser being spread to grassland without knowledge pertaining to its phosphorus (P) or nitrogen (N) fertiliser replacement value. This creates uncertainty of desired crop yield achievement and unproductive nutrient recycling and also poses a great challenge to the dairy milk processing industry in promoting their food processing by-product as valuable recyclable fertiliser. Therefore four representative samples, i.e. two activated sludge (aluminium-precipitated (Al-sludge) and iron-precipitated (Fe-sludge)), and two lime-stabilised calcium-precipitated sludge (Ca1- and Ca2-sludge), were examined at field scale to assess P and N availability for crop yield and uptake in comparison to reference mineral fertilisers over one seasonal year. The field plots were set-up on a light textured clay loam soil within the optimum plant available P (Morgan's soil P index 3, i.e. medium / adequate soil P level) in two separate adjoining areas consisting of P and N availability experiments. Each experiment consisted of 40 plots (each 8×2 m2) of 10 treatments with 4 replications arranged in a randomised complete block design. All dairy sludge (40 kg-P ha−1) and mineral P treatments (rates 0–50 kg-P ha−1) produced similar yields and uptake, and crop P was not affected by sludge applications despite the presence of high Al, Ca and Fe. During the experiment there was no significant change in P index (stayed at index 3) indicating that no treatment caused a decline in P into index 2 (i.e. low soil P level), therefore replacing P removed by the crop. The only change in Morgan's P was observed in the Ca-sludge treatments, but this was due to Morgan's reagent overestimating plant available P in high Ca conditions. From N trial plots a significantly higher grass yield and N uptake was observed for Fe and both Ca-type sludge applied plots than the control (zero N) plot during the 1st harvest, while no statistical difference observed in the subsequent harvests (up to 4th harvesting). The N fertiliser replacement value (derived from mineral N response) of sludge samples was observed to be in the order of Fe (54%)>Ca2 (25%)>Ca1 (22%)>Al (8%) with greater promise of N fertiliser efficiency of Fe and Ca types. Overall these bio-based sludges show promise in recycling P and N for grassland application but longer term trials in other soil types considering other environmental aspects (losses to soil, water and air) can further optimize the management of dairy sludge as an alternative to chemical fertiliser.
    • Groundwater: A pathway for terrestrial C and N losses and indirect greenhouse gas emissions

      Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Johnston, Paul; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Humphreys, James; Fenton, Owen; Richards, Karl G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin; RSF 06383 (Elsevier, 16/07/2012)
      Estimating losses of dissolved carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) via groundwater in an agricultural system provides insights into reducing uncertainties in the terrestrial C and N balances. In addition, quantification of dissolved nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in groundwaters beneath agricultural systems is important for global greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets. Dissolved C (DC: dissolved organic carbon (DOC) + CO2-C + CH4-C) and dissolved nitrogen (DN: NO3−-N + NH4+ + NO2−-N + N2O-N + N2) in groundwater were measured in two low permeability (<0.02 m d−1) and two high permeability (>0.05 m d−1) aquifers in Ireland. Groundwater in multilevel piezometers was sampled monthly over two years. Mean groundwater discharge to surface water was higher in 2009 (587–836 mm) than in 2010 (326–385 mm). Dissolved C and N delivery to surface water via groundwater caused substantial losses of terrestrial C and N. The extent of delivery was site specific and depended on N input, recharge and aquifer permeability. Mean dissolved N losses ranged from 8–12% of N input in low permeability to 27–38% in high permeability aquifers. The dominant fraction of DN was NO3−-N (84–90% of DN) in high permeability aquifers and N2 (46–77% of DN) in low permeability aquifers. Indirect N2O emissions via groundwater denitrification accounted for 0.03–0.12% of N input, which was equivalent to 3–11% of total N2O emissions. Dissolved C loss to surface waters via groundwater was not significant compared to total carbon (TC) content of the topsoil (0.06–0.18% of TC). Site characteristics contributed greatly to the distribution of N between NO3−-N and dissolved N gases, N2O and N2. Indirect GHG emissions from groundwater were an important part of farm nutrient budgets, which clearly has implications for national GHG inventories.
    • Impact of agronomic practices of an intensive dairy farm on nitrogen concentrations in a karst aquifer in Ireland

      Huebsch, Manuela; Horan, Brendan; Blum, P.; Richards, Karl G.; Grant, Jim; Fenton, Owen; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 24/09/2013)
      Exploring the relationship between agricultural nitrogen loading on a dairy farm and groundwater reactive nitrogen concentration such as nitrate is particularly challenging in areas underlain by thin soils and karstified limestone aquifers. The objective of this study is to relate changes in detailed agronomic N-loading, local weather conditions, hydrogeological and geological site characteristics with groundwater N occurrence over an 11-year period on an intensive dairy farm with free draining soils and a vulnerable limestone aquifer. In addition, the concept of vertical time lag from source to receptor is considered. Statistical analysis used regression with automatic variable selection. Four scenarios were proposed to describe the relationships between paddock and groundwater wells using topographic and hydrogeological assumptions. Monitored nitrate concentrations in the studied limestone aquifer showed a general decrease in the observed time period (2002–2011). Statistical results showed that a combination of improved agronomic practices and site specific characteristics such as thicknesses of the soil and unsaturated zone together with hydrogeological connections of wells and local weather conditions such as rainfall, sunshine and soil moisture deficit were important explanatory variables for nitrate concentrations. Statistical results suggested that the following agronomic changes improved groundwater quality over the 11-year period: reductions in inorganic fertiliser usage, improvements in timing of slurry application, the movement of a dairy soiled water irrigator to less karstified areas of the farm and the usage of minimum cultivation reseeding on the farm. In many cases the explanatory variables of farm management practices tended to become more important after a 1- or 2-year time lag. Results indicated that the present approach can be used to elucidate the effect of farm management changes to groundwater quality and therefore the assessment of present and future legislation implementations.
    • Mobilisation or dilution? Nitrate response of karst springs to high rainfall events

      Huebsch, Manuela; Fenton, Owen; Horan, Brendan; Hennessy, Deirdre; Richards, Karl G.; Jordan, Philip; Goldscheider, N.; Butscher, C.; Blum, P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (European Geosciences Union, 05/11/2014)
      Nitrate (NO3−) contamination of groundwater associated with agronomic activity is of major concern in many countries. Where agriculture, thin free draining soils and karst aquifers coincide, groundwater is highly vulnerable to nitrate contamination. As residence times and denitrification potential in such systems are typically low, nitrate can discharge to surface waters unabated. However, such systems also react quickest to agricultural management changes that aim to improve water quality. In response to storm events, nitrate concentrations can alter significantly, i.e. rapidly decreasing or increasing concentrations. The current study examines the response of a specific karst spring situated on a grassland farm in South Ireland to rainfall events utilising high-resolution nitrate and discharge data together with on-farm borehole groundwater fluctuation data. Specifically, the objectives of the study are to formulate a scientific hypothesis of possible scenarios relating to nitrate responses during storm events, and to verify this hypothesis using additional case studies from the literature. This elucidates the controlling key factors that lead to mobilisation and/or dilution of nitrate concentrations during storm events. These were land use, hydrological condition and karstification, which in combination can lead to differential responses of mobilised and/or diluted nitrate concentrations. Furthermore, the results indicate that nitrate response in karst is strongly dependent on nutrient source, whether mobilisation and/or dilution occur and on the pathway taken. This will have consequences for the delivery of nitrate to a surface water receptor. The current study improves our understanding of nitrate responses in karst systems and therefore can guide environmental modellers, policy makers and drinking water managers with respect to the regulations of the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD). In future, more research should focus on the high-resolution monitoring of karst aquifers to capture the high variability of hydrochemical processes, which occur at time intervals of hours to days.
    • A Response to the Draft National Mitigation Plan. Teagasc submission to the Department of Communications, Climate Action & theEnvironment

      Lanigan, Gary; Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Gultzer, Carsten; Forrestal, Patrick J.; Farrelly, Niall; Shalloo, Laurence; O’Brien, Donal; Ryan, Mary; Murphy, Pat; et al. (Teagasc, 2017-04)
      This submission details the mitigation potential of agriculture to shortly be published as an update to the Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) for Agriculture and and describes how the MACC mitigation strategies relate to the measures in the National Mitigation Plan.
    • A review of nitrous oxide mitigation by farm nitrogen management in temperate grassland-based agriculture

      Li, Dejun; Watson, C. J.; Yan, Ming Jia; Lalor, Stanley T. J.; Rafique, Rashid; Hyde, Bernard; Lanigan, Gary; Richards, Karl G.; Holden, Nicholas M.; Humphreys, James; et al. (Elsevier, 20/07/2013)
      Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission from grassland-based agriculture is an important source of atmospheric N2O. It is hence crucial to explore various solutions including farm nitrogen (N) management to mitigate N2O emissions without sacrificing farm profitability and food supply. This paper reviews major N management practices to lower N2O emission from grassland-based agriculture. Restricted grazing by reducing grazing time is an effective way to decrease N2O emissions from excreta patches. Balancing the protein-to-energy ratios in the diets of ruminants can also decrease N2O emissions from excreta patches. Among the managements of synthetic fertilizer N application, only adjusting fertilizer N rate and slow-released fertilizers are proven to be effective in lowering N2O emissions. Use of bedding materials may increase N2O emissions from animal houses. Manure storage as slurry, manipulating slurry pH to values lower than 6 and storage as solid manure under anaerobic conditions help to reduce N2O emissions during manure storage stage. For manure land application, N2O emissions can be mitigated by reducing manure N inputs to levels that satisfy grass needs. Use of nitrification inhibitors can substantially lower N2O emissions associated with applications of fertilizers and manures and from urine patches. N2O emissions from legume based grasslands are generally lower than fertilizer-based systems. In conclusion, effective measures should be taken at each step during N flow or combined options should be used in order to mitigate N2O emission at the farm level.
    • Scenarios to limit environmental nitrogen losses from dairy expansion

      Hoekstra, N.J.; Schulte, R.P.O.; Forrestal, P.J.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Krol, Dominika; Lanigan, Gary J.; Müller, C.; Shalloo, Laurence; Wall, David P.; Richards, Karl G.; et al. (Elsevier, 2020-03-10)
      Increased global demand for dairy produce and the abolition of EU milk quotas have resulted in expansion in dairy production across Europe and particularly in Ireland. Simultaneously, there is increasing pressure to reduce the impact of nitrogen (N) losses to air and groundwater on the environment. In order to develop grassland management strategies for grazing systems that meet environmental targets and are economically sustainable, it is imperative that individual mitigation measures for N efficiency are assessed at farm system level. To this end, we developed an excel-based N flow model simulating an Irish grass-based dairy farm, to evaluate the effect of farm management on N efficiency, N losses, production and economic performance. The model was applied to assess the effect of different strategies to achieve the increased production goals on N utilization, N loss pathways and economic performance at farm level. The three strategies investigated included increased milk production through increased grass production, through increased concentrate feeding and by applying a high profit grass-based system. Additionally, three mitigation measures; low ammonia emission slurry application, the use of urease and nitrification inhibitors and the combination of both were applied to the three strategies. Absolute N emissions were higher for all intensification scenarios (up to 124 kg N ha−1) compared to the baseline (80 kg N ha−1) due to increased animal numbers and higher feed and/or fertiliser inputs. However, some intensification strategies showed the potential to reduce the emissions per ton milk produced for some of the N-loss pathways. The model showed that the assessed mitigation measures can play an important role in ameliorating the increased emissions associated with intensification, but may not be adequate to entirely offset absolute increases. Further improvements in farm N use efficiency and alternatives to mineral fertilisers will be required to decouple production from reactive N emissions.
    • Teagasc submission made in response to the Consultation Paper on Interim Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation 2019

      Spink, John; Buckley, Cathal; Burgess, Edward; Daly, Karen M.; Dillon, Pat; Fenton, Owen; Horan, Brendan; Humphreys, James; Hyde, Tim; McCarthy, Brian; et al. (Teagasc, 2019-06-04)
      This submission was made in response to the consultation process run jointly by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) inviting views and comments on proposals for the Interim Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation Programme in 2019. It has been prepared by Teagasc’s Water Quality Working Group in consultation with the Gaseous Emissions Working Group. These working groups have members drawn from both the Knowledge Transfer and Research Directorates of Teagasc. It was prepared following consultation with colleagues across Teagasc using their collective knowledge and expertise in agri-environmental science and practice and the implementation of the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Nitrates Derogation Regulations.
    • Urine patch distribution under dairy grazing at three stocking rates in Ireland

      Dennis, S.J.; Moir, James L.; Cameron, K.C.; Di, H.J.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Richards, Karl G. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      Nitrate pollution of water is a serious global environmental issue. Grassland agriculture is a major source of diffuse nitrate pollution, with much of this nitrate originating from the urine patches of grazing animals. To study nitrate losses from grassland it is necessary to consider the areas of grassland that are affected by urine separately from the remainder of the pasture. Urine patches can be observed in the field as areas of vigorously growing pasture, however the pasture may continue to respond for several months, making it difficult to determine when the observed patch was actually deposited. A global positioning system was used to record the location of all urine and dung patches in a pasture at every second grazing on an Irish dairy farm during the grazing season. Any patches reappearing were removed from the data, allowing the fresh urine patches to be identified. Dairy cows deposited 0.359 urine patches per grazing hour, a value that may be used to predict the distribution of urine patches under any grazing regime. This equated to 14.1 to 20.7% of the soil surface being wet by urine annually at stocking rates of 2.0 to 2.94 cows per hectare, consistent with previous research. These values may be used in conjunction with values for nitrate loss from urine and non-urine areas to calculate nitrate losses from grazed pasture at a range of stocking rates.
    • Variations in travel time for N loading to groundwaters in four case studies in Ireland:Implications for policy makers and regulators

      Fenton, Owen; Coxon, Catherine E.; Haria, Atul H.; Horan, Brendan; Humphreys, James; Johnston, Paul; Murphy, Paul N. C.; Necpalova, Magdalena; Premrov, Alina; Richards, Karl G. (School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2009)
      Mitigation measures to protect waterbodies must be implemented by 2012 to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. The efficacy of these measures will be assessed in 2015. Whilst diffuse N pathways between source and receptor are generally long and complex, EU legislation does not account for differences in hydrological travel time distributions that may result in different water quality response times. The “lag time” between introducing mitigation measures and first improvements in water quality is likely to be different in different catchments; a process that should be considered by policy makers and catchment managers. Many examples of travel time variations have been quoted in the literature but no Irish specific examples are available. Lag times based on initial nutrient breakthrough at four contrasting sites were estimated to a receptor 500 m away from a source. Vertical travel times were estimated using a combination of depth of infiltration calculations based on effective rainfall and subsoil physical parameters and existing hydrological tracer data. Horizontal travel times were estimated using a combination of Darcian linear velocity calculations and existing tracer migration data. Total travel times, assuming no biogeochemical processes, ranged from months to decades between the contrasting sites; the shortest times occurred under thin soil/subsoil on karst limestone and the longest times through thick low permeability soils/subsoils over poorly productive aquifers. Policy makers should consider hydrological lag times when assessing the efficacy of mitigation measures introduced under the Water Framework Directive. This lag time reflects complete flushing of a particular nutrient from source to receptor. Further research is required to assess the potential mitigation of nitrate through denitrification along the pathway from source to receptor.