NUI Galway and Teagasc join forces to reduce the carbon-footprint of Irish agriculture

Pictured at the signing of the agreement were (l-r): Professor Charles Spillane Plant, Head of the Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) in NUI Galway; President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne; Director of Teagasc Professor Gerry Boyle; and Minister Sean Kyne, TD Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources representing the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources. Picture: Andrew Downes
Pictured at the signing of the agreement were (l-r): Professor Charles Spillane Plant, Head of the Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) in NUI Galway; President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne; Director of Teagasc Professor Gerry Boyle; and Minister Sean Kyne, TD Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources representing the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources. Picture: Andrew Downes
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Cutting greenhouse gas emissions from milk and meat production is a major challenge for Ireland.

To help address this and other related challenges, Teagasc and NUI Galway today announced the establishment of a Strategic Research and Training Alliance on Carbon-Neutral Agriculture.

Pictured at the announcement were (l-r): Director of Teagasc Professor Gerry Boyle; Minister Sean Kyne, TD Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources; President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne; and Professor Charles Spillane, Head of the Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) in NUI Galway. Picture: Andrew Downes.

Pictured at the announcement were (l-r): Director of Teagasc Professor Gerry Boyle; Minister Sean Kyne, TD Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources; President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne; and Professor Charles Spillane, Head of the Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) in NUI Galway. Picture: Andrew Downes.

The new partnership will accelerate an inter-disciplinary portfolio of training and research approaches and innovations.

Building from existing collaborative activities between both institutions, the Strategic Alliance will see new postgraduate courses come on stream, and a range of new research projects aimed at transitioning our agriculture and food systems to a lower carbon footprint.

Recent analyses have revealed that current agricultural interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the global level will only deliver 21-40% of target, indicating need for transformative technical and policy options.

The agri-food sector in Ireland is our largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“These challenges are well understood by government as reflected in the National Policy Position on Climate Action which envisages an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.”

Denis Naughten, TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources

The targets to dramatically grow the Irish agrifood sector by 2020/2025 are likely to result in Ireland exceeding its national targets for greenhouse gas emissions triggering major fines.

Denis Naughten, TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, stressed that: “The climate change agenda presents many challenges for Ireland in transitioning to a low carbon climate resilient economy not least of which will be how we manage our overall emissions profile.

“These challenges are well understood by government as reflected in the National Policy Position on Climate Action which envisages an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

“The role of research and innovation in informing the implementation of such policy is a key consideration and I am therefore delighted to see this alliance launched today and look forward seeing outcomes which can inform our thinking on the most appropriate pathways towards supporting both climate change adaptation and mitigation for the Irish agri-food sector.”

The Teagasc and NUI Galway Strategic Alliance will combine the expertise and strengths of both institutions to foster the research and training necessary for both climate change adaptation and mitigation for the Irish agri-food sector.

The agreement builds on the existing MoU between Teagasc and the inter-disciplinary Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) in NUI Galway.

The Director of Teagasc Professor Gerry Boyle and the President of NUI Galway President Jim Browne agreed that the combined research and training efforts of both organisations will support both climate change adaptation and mitigation for the Irish agri-food sector.

Head of the NUI Galway PABC, Professor Charles Spillane indicates that: “FAO indicates that over half of farming’s direct climate impact is currently caused by methane released by livestock and from their manure.

“Climate change concerns combined with dietary guideline drivers are now major challenges for the agri-food sector, particularly for higher carbon-footprint milk and meat products.

“There is a need, and indeed an opportunity, for NUI Galway, Teagasc and our other partners across Ireland to develop the next-generation of innovations to reduce the carbon-footprint of agriculture.”

To generate impact and promote an inter-disciplinary approach, the Teagasc and NUI Galway Strategic Alliance will bring together research and researchers across many subject areas ranging from agri-biosciences, engineering, informatics, economics, marketing and agri-business.

The alliance will have a particular focus on postgraduate (PhD and Masters) research and training, with the launch of a new jointly-developed Structured PhD Programme in Plant and AgriBiosciences, and a new Structured Masters degree in AgriBiosciences.

Both of the new programs contain advanced training modules that are jointly designed and delivered by leading experts from NUI Galway, Teagasc, industry and stakeholder groups.

These new qualifications are in addition to the Masters degree in Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (MScCCAFS) which NUI Galway is running in collaboration with the global CCAFS programme and national partners such as Teagasc.

Dr Frank O’Mara, Director of Research at Teagasc said: “We are excited by the prospect of the new structured PhD researcher programme between NUI Galway and Teagasc having tailor-made modules on the Irish Agri-Food Sector, Agri-Sustainability, Agri-Business and Agri-Communications delivered jointly by Teagasc and NUI Galway staff.”

The new structured PhD program will build upon existing activities between both institutions. Since 2000, Teagasc has supported 63 Walsh Fellowship PhD researchers at NUI Galway with an investment of over €5.5 million, and is engaged in a wide range of collaborative research projects with NUI Galway PABC research groups.

To deepen the integration of research and training activities between the two institutions, Teagasc has appointed five leading NUI Galway experts as Adjunct members of Teagasc, while leading Teagasc experts are being appointed as Adjunct Faculty of the NUI Galway Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC).

One such expert is Professor Colin O’Dowd who runs NUI Galway’s Mace Head Climate Observatory.

He highlighted that: “There are emerging inter-disciplinary opportunities for more accurate measurement and management of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture arising from advances in satellite remote sensing and informatics, that NUI Galway and Teagasc will combine efforts on.”

The Head of the Teagasc Rural Economy and Development Programme, Professor Cathal O’Donoghue further indicated that: “The Strategic Alliance also includes a new Executive Education Program between Teagasc, SFSI (Sustainable Food Systems Ireland) and NUI Galway which is aimed at agri-food managers and leaders and aims to transfer the lessons from Ireland’s experience in developing and implementing a sustainability strategy within the agri-food sector.”