A new Teagasc paper has put the emissions from Ireland’s drained peat grasslands at 60% lower than current estimates, in official national emissions reporting.

Teagasc found that only around one-third of peat grasslands are drained effectively, where previously it had been assumed that all 335,000ha of lands on peat soils were drained. This equates to there being only between 90,000ha and 120,000ha of drained peats.

Researchers maintain these results offer the first “reliable” evidence of drainage levels of peaty farmland and have referred to the 335,000ha estimate as being “highly uncertain”.

The size of the difference in emissions represented by the lower area, equates to approximately 7% of the total national emissions across all sectors, or around 5m tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Land use policy

Teagasc’s findings could have major implications for the ongoing Government review of land use policy, which could steer farmers in the way they manage their land and forestry.

Teagasc researcher, Dr Pat Tuohy said that there is “no evidence to support that effective drainage ever occurred on as much land as previously assumed”.

“This study has proposed these potential emission savings by compiling decades of evidence related to drainage status of peat soils,” Teagasc’s Professor Owen Fenton added.

EPA updates

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the Irish Farmers Journal that it uses the “best available information obtained from a number of sources” to compile its national emissions figures.

“The output from this new research will be incorporated into the national inventory as soon as practical, and in consultation with research project leaders and other experts, so that the best possible estimates can be derived.”

If the new Teagasc research is accepted, it will also mean that many thousands of hectares of drained, farmed peatlands will avoid facing restoration measures under the proposed EU nature restoration law, if it passes.

The law itself is coming under significant pressure in the European Parliament. The Parliament’s environment committee will push for the law to be thrown out next month when all MEPs are given the chance to debate it.

The move follows a vote in the committee on Tuesday to reject the rewetting and nature restoration plans.