Ireland’s ammonia emissions were non-compliant with the EU directive responsible for emission reductions in 2020 and that the failure to reach ammonia targets being driven by farming activities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA has determined that farming is responsible for 99% of all ammonia emissions in Ireland, with the management of slurry and the spreading of fertiliser particularly significant sources of ammonia losses from agriculture.

The non-compliance occurred despite an overall reduction in ammonia emissions, with 36% of all cattle slurry spread using low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) techniques and a 62% increase in the take-up of protected urea as a nitrogen source in in 2020.

Full implementation of technologies, such as LESS and the switch from CAN to protected urea, could allow compliance to be achieved by 2030, the agency has said.

Compliance with the national emissions reduction commitment’s (NEC) targets was achieved in 2020 for other emission classes, including the sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission reduction categories.

More to be done

Ammonia emissions were non-compliant with the directive in eight of the past nine years.

“While reductions in ammonia emissions are welcome, much more remains to be done to end Ireland’s continuing non-compliance with NEC directive targets,” said the director of the EPA’s office of environmental sustainability Sharon Finegan.

“Full implementation of ammonia abatement measures outlined in agriculture sectoral plans, such as LESS and use of inhibited urea fertiliser products, is required to bring Ireland into compliance with the 2030 emission reduction commitment for ammonia,” she explained.

Finegan also pointed out that the nitrogen lost from fertiliser and slurry to air represent a loss to the nutrients available in soils.

“Nitrogen losses to both the air and water cause significant environmental pressure without providing any soil fertility benefit. The nitrates action programme, Ag Climatise and the draft river basin management plan 2022-2027 all reflect the need to reduce nutrient loss to the environment,” the director concluded.