Scholar says CO2 emissions have a beneficial effect on crops
In a report published this week, Dr Indur Goklany, a former delegate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, called for a reassessment of the impact of CO2 emissions on the environment.

In a report entitled Carbon Dioxide: The Good News, Dr Goklany says that carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal man-made greenhouse gas, has many benefits for the natural world and for humankind. The scholar and author, who is a member of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank which aims to "put balance back into the climate change debate", says that CO2 “fertilises plants, and emissions from fossil fuels have already had a hugely beneficial effect on crops, increasing yields by at least 9%-11%”.

The policy analyst, who holds a PhD in electrical engineering, says this has “not only been good for humankind but for the natural world too, because an acre of land that is not used for crops is an acre of land that is left for nature”.

Goklany says thousands of experiments since the 1800s have shown that the majority of plants grow faster and larger, both above and below ground, if they are exposed to higher CO2 concentrations. He says the optimum level for this growth is twice the level of today’s ambient concentration of 400 parts per million (ppm), and adds that some plants may continue to respond positively at even higher CO2 levels.

The report refers to a database of peer-reviewed papers assembled from studies of the effect of CO2 on plant growth by the Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. These studies show that for the 45 crops that account for 95% of global crop production, an increase of 300ppm of carbon dioxide would increase yields by between 5% and 78%.

According to the report, CO2 has also been found to increase the efficiency with which plants consume water and, consequently, “under higher carbon dioxide conditions, less water is needed to increase a plant’s biomass by any given amount. In other words,” the author states, “higher carbon dioxide levels increase plants’ ability to adapt to water-limited (or drought) conditions, precisely the conditions that some environmentalists claim are already occurring.”

Lower variation in yields

Dr Goklany also refers to a study which found that higher CO2 levels are associated with lower variation in yields for each crop.

“This is consistent with the notion that increased CO2 levels reduce the sensitivity of yield to other factors (eg water shortages and air pollution). All else being equal, lower variation translates into a more stable supply of food, as well as more stable food prices, which benefits all consumers everywhere.”

Contrast

Dr Goklany’s report flies in the face of other scientific views on the negative impact of CO2 emissions on food production reliability. For example, a 2010 study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated the inhibition of wheat crops to convert nitrate into a protein, due to increased CO2 levels, which affects its nutritional value. Lead author of study and plant scientist Professor Arnold Bloom said “Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing.”

The study says that if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise and negatively effect plants and crops, the amount of food proteins in the whole world could drop as much as 3% in just a few decades. Referring to the initial increase in growth, as described by Oklany's report, Bloom says, "at first higher levels of CO2 reduces photorespiration, which boosts photosynthesis in plants. In time, however, the increase in the rate of photosynthesis tapers off as the plants adjust to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, and plant growth slows."

Moreover, the US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that warmer temperatures can increase crop yields, but adds the caveat that more extreme temperatures, precipitation, and pest multiplication, also caused by CO2, can prevent crops from growing. Oklany's report dismisses the likelihood of these events, saying the "science is not settled" on these issues.

Ireland's environmental obligations

As for Ireland’s responsibilities on CO2, the European targets to which we are bound, in round figures, require EU-wide emissions reductions (relative to 1990 levels) of 20% by 2020, 40% by 2030 and an envisaged 80% to 95% by 2050. More than 30% of Ireland’s emissions come from agriculture and most of these are from dairy and beef production.

At world level, the UN is preparing for a major climate conference in Paris in December, aimed at reaching international agreement on a global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Agri jobs: dairy, meat processing and horticulture jobs
We take a look at what jobs are out there at the moment in the agricultural sector.

Horticulture worker

A horticulture worker is required on a farm in Kells, Co Kilkenny. General duties will include carrying out all work associated with cropping, repairing and maintaining farm vehicles and digging and planting seeds.

Other work will include harvesting fruit and vegetables. The salary is €22,000/year.

For more information on this role, click here.

Dairy farm manager

A dairy farm worker is required for an expanding grass-based dairy operation in Co Laois. The successful candidate could progress to being the dairy farm manager.

This dairy enterprise is running two dairy herds, one in Ballacolla and one in Rathdowney. Both farms are new greenfield sites which have modern milking facilities.

For further details, click here.

Dairy farm worker

A farm worker is required for a family-run dairy farm with a modern set up and expanding herd in Co Monaghan. Duties will include milking cows, feeding calves, machinery work and general farm work.

Experience is desirable and a Green Cert is preferable. A full clean driving licence is essential.

To apply for this job, click here.

Dairy farm worker

A farm worker is required to work on a progressive dairy farm in Co Cork.

Duties will include milking cows, rearing calves and grassland management. Some experience is an advantage for the role.

For more information on this position, click here.

Meat processing operatives

Ballon Meats in Carlow is looking to hire meat processing operatives to work as part of the factory processing team producing meat to fulfil production targets on a daily and weekly basis.

The successful candidates will be required to work in all areas of the factory, where you will be required to work on your own initiative and as part of a team.

For more information on this position, click here.

Beef and dairy bosses demand Brexit action from Creed
Imposing tariffs on exports would "cripple trade", meat and dairy factory representatives have warned.

Beef and dairy bosses braced for a hard Brexit have handed a list of demands to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

With 65 days remaining to salvage a Brexit deal, the nightmare scenario of a no-deal is becoming ever more likely.

A delegation including Aurivo’s Aaron Forde, ABP’s Martin Kane, Larry Murrin of Dawn Farms Foods, Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland and Conor Mulvihill of Dairy Industry Ireland, met with Minister Creed on Tuesday.

Dairy co-ops want dual British-Irish status for Northern Ireland milk, export refunds and other trade supports. They called for a freeze on tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit and direct income aid for farmers.

Meat factory representatives warned that if tariffs are imposed on exports to the UK “it would cripple trade”, with the additional danger of sterling devaluation in a no-deal outcome.

They called for extra resources to ensure speedy border checks and increased ferry capacity and routes for direct shipping to the continent.

While European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan reassured farmers Brussels is poised to swoop to their aid, a Commission spokesman confirmed a hard border is inevitable unless the British reach an agreement with the EU or delay their withdrawal.

Read more

No-deal Brexit to add 21c/l in cheddar processing costs

EU 'stands ready' to support farmers - Hogan
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has assured farmers that Europe is planning for all possible outcomes from Brexit negotiations.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has moved to reassure farmers that the EU stands ready to intervene in markets to protect prices in the event of a hard Brexit.

“We have to prepare for the worst. The European Union stands ready to help Irish and EU farmers in the event of a hard Brexit,” Commissioner Hogan said, addressing a crowd of more than 250 farmers at the Kilkenny IFA annual dinner dance on Saturday night.

“We have the tools ready to intervene, including Aid to Private Storage, intervention and a revision of state aid rules,” he added.

Slow

His words will help give farmers comfort that, while Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has been slow to commit to supports, plans for a safety net at EU level are well advanced.

Hogan reassured farmers that the EU is ready for all scenarios, but warned that the Government must also be ready and ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure products can continue to move through ports.

Gloomy

While a no-deal Brexit paints a gloomy picture, vice president of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness is reminding farmers that it could be avoided if a deal is reached between the EU and UK. But, she says, plans are being put in place to deal with a no-deal scenario.

“There are deep concerns about the consequences,” McGuinness told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“We will need to be looking at how you are going to support a vulnerable sector, that will call for money.

"All of those things will have to be discussed in the short period of time before the United Kingdom leaves.”