Germinal sets out role for clovers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions

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Belfast-headquartered Germinal, a pioneer in the development of grass and forage varieties to support climate smart farming, has outlined the role of clovers in reducing carbon emissions at the recent British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) conference held in Belfast.

In addition to adopting emissions-reducing technologies at farm level, including low emission slurry spreading, earlier age to slaughter, use of protected urea fertiliser and liming, farmers are increasingly turning to legume varieties to reduce the need for artificial fertiliser without compromising on animal performance.

Discussing the ‘Challenge and Opportunities for Pasture Based Agriculture’, Germinal Technical Director, Dr. Mary McEvoy, explained the role of clover in reducing dependence on Nitrogen fertilisers in multispecies grazing systems and the contribution that clover can make to achieving the climate action targets, including an Republic of Ireland agricultural sector emissions reduction target of 25%(or 5.75 Mt CO2eq) by 2030. “Pasture-based agriculture is facing challenges, including achieving reductions in environmental emissions, reducing nitrogen fertilliser use, improving water quality and maintaining food security. “In 2021, agriculture accounted for 33% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Republic of Ireland and 28% in Northern Ireland.

“Following the abolition of milk quotas, emissions have risen to just beyond the 1998 previous peak in ROI of 22.93 MtCO2eq. to 23.09 MtCO2eq. in 2021. Overall emissions from agriculture have grown by 19% in the last decade, and currently we have about one-third of technologies we need to meet a 25% reduction target.” So, what further measures can the agricultural sector take to reduce emissions and maintain food production? Dr. McEvoy says both white and red clover have a significant role to play: “An almost trebling of fertiliser prices in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine encouraged many farmers to look again at what could be achieved with clover. They found that clovers have a lot to offer. In our view, clover varieties are the most important part of a multi-species sward. But we need to create the conditions to allow them perform in the sward to maximise their contribution in both animal performance and emissions reductions. “Research has consistently shown that the inclusion of clover in swards using very low levels of artificial nitrogen fertilisers will achieve the same level of production as grass only swards getting up to 250 kg of nitrogen fertilisers per hectare. But we’ve been slow to promote the adoption of clover swards at farm level. We now need to trust the science and let it guide us. “Red clover for silage also has huge value, reducing artificial N inputs, increasing home grown protein and reducing the need for soya imports. It produces a high-quality feed and will be a real benefit on Irish farms. Multi-species swards, some of which include clover and herb varieties, also bring real benefits to soil health, including the development of soil microbes and fauna populations that improve soil structure and are critical to sustainable agriculture into the future.” Germinal is a sixth generation family business headquartered in Belfast which is focused on providing climate smart farming and food solutions by developing new plant varieties and technologies to support profitable, efficient and sustainable grass-based livestock farming.

Germinal Technical Director, Dr. Mary McEvoyGerminal Technical Director, Dr. Mary McEvoy
Germinal Technical Director, Dr. Mary McEvoy

Germinal Horizon, its research and innovation division, has demonstrated improved consistency of herbage supply with more diverse seed mixtures, with perennial ryegrass (PRG) being out-yielded by PRG+, white clover or a multi-species mixtures during the main growing season (June-August). These results are consistent with the ongoing work at the Lyons Research Farm (University College Dublin) and at Johnstown Castle Research (Teagasc). Germinal Horizon comprises research scientists and agricultural production specialists at world-leading grassland research centres at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in Wales, and at its research stations in Wiltshire and at Broadfield, New Zealand. To learn more go to