Farm input suppliers will have to be on board if agriculture is to meet its carbon emissions targets, Marie Donnelly of the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) has warned.

Agriculture could deliver 50% of the reductions required in its carbon emissions if it focused on chemical fertiliser usage, adopted more feed additives and promoted biomethane production, Donnelly said.

However, the CCAC chair pointed out that farmers could not spread protected urea if they can’t buy it.

Similarly, she said it was crucial that feed additives are made available to farmers at competitive prices to encourage their adoption.

Donnelly was speaking at the Agriculture and Climate Change: Science in Action conference which took place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday.

“In the supply chain, what is the percentage of protected urea available,” Donnelly asked.

“Because, if a farmer goes to buy fertiliser and there isn’t any protected urea, that is an opportunity lost. And farmers can’t spread protected urea if they can’t source it,” she added.

Donnelly said the Department of Agriculture’s new fertiliser database should be used to establish what percentage of protected urea is being held in merchants’ yards this autumn for the season ahead.

On biomethane, she bemoaned the fact that Ireland had no national policy and no industry, despite the sector being potentially “hugely significant”.

Meanwhile, Laura Burke of the Environmental Protection Agency cautioned that an 8% reduction in carbon emissions will be needed from agriculture up to 2025 for the sector to meet its mid-term targets.

However, Department of Agriculture secretary general Brendan Gleeson said there had to be an acceptance of the “extraordinary changes” that had already taken place in the farm sector.

“We are asking real people to do these things and that is not easy,” Gleeson said.