Irish farmers are already “on the cusp” of meeting a 2030 target to reduce chemical nitrogen, a Teagasc scientist has said.

Speaking at the Teagasc Soil Conference this week, Dr Seamus Kearney said while farmers can get a lot of bad press when it comes to nitrogen, it is important to recognise the reductions farmers have already made in chemical nitrogen application.

The target for 2030 is to reduce chemical nitrogen to 300,000t from 408,000t in 2018. This equates to a 26% drop.

“As of last year 2023, we reduced our chemical nitrogen by 30% from the 2018 base. I know there was fertiliser carried over from 2022 to 2023.

“So even if we take the 2022 figure and the 2023 figure added together and average them, farmers have reduced the total chemical nitrogen over 2022 and 2023 by 24%.

“They're very much on the cusp already of achieving the 2030 target,” he said.


Kearney outlined a number of measures farmers can take to reduce the amount of chemical nitrogen they have to apply on their farm.

These included improving lime, P and K levels, retaining more nitrogen from slurry and the use of clover.

Kearney said lime is “the best investment you’ll make on any farm”.

Referencing research from Teagasc in Johnstown Castle, Kearney said lime helps release naturally occurring nitrogen and phosphorus soil.

“They took soils at 5.5ph, very low index, one for P; they actually put out lime at about 2t/ac and that helped release naturally occurring nitrogen and phosphorus. It brought the phosphorus up to index three levels.

“A lift of two indexes by getting the lime right - and lime has a huge effect on a lot of farms - releasing naturally occurring nitrogen and phosphorus up to 70kg, maybe 80kg N/ha, per year.

“So a no brainer is to get lime right first of all,” he said.

The conference was part two of a three-part online Teagasc Soil Conference. The last instalment will take place on Monday 11 March.