While the recently published climate mitigation plan included limited action on agriculture beyond existing afforestation and agri-environmental schemes, this consultation focuses on air pollutants other than greenhouse gases, such as ammonia and fine particulate matter. The issue here is health and harm to the environment.

The discussion paper published by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to inform the public consultation includes a large section on agriculture. It warns that plans to grow agricultural production under the Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 strategies “may lead to increased air emissions”, with agriculture already representing 98% of Ireland’s ammonia emissions. While these have remained stable in recent years, the EU has set a target of 19% less ammonia in 2030 compared with 2010.

Slurry spreading and vegetation burning

Two farming activities have been singled out as contributing most to air pollution: slurry and manure management, which releases ammonia, and vegetation burning, which creates fine particulate matter. The report also cites research showing that ammonia in turn contributes to the formation of particulate matter.

“The splash plate technique can, depending on the timing of the application and the weather conditions, result in significant nitrogen loss to the atmosphere through ammonia volatilisation, as well as creating odour issues,” the Department paper reads, adding that trailing shoe or trailing hose spreading methods limits those effects. It notes that splash plates have been banned in Denmark since 2001 and asks whether a date should be set for a similar ban in Ireland.

The paper also notes that “fires can release significant amounts of pollution to the atmosphere”, adding that Ireland has been contacted by the European Commission about its lack of monitoring of vegetation burning on farms. The consultation is also seeking input on this aspect.

Other aspects under discussion include the use of urea stabilisers for fertilisers and the covering of slurry storage in the pig and dairy sectors to reduce ammonia emissions.

The consultation is open until this Friday, 26 April, and members of the public are invited to send their comments by e-mail to cleanair@dccae.gov.ie or by post to:

Clean Air Strategy Consultation,

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment,

Air Quality and Radiation Policy Section,

Newtown Road,