Hannah Woods looks towards outgoing Agriculture graduates and the role they play in the environmental sustainability conversation.
Environmentalism is the concern and action aimed at protecting the environment, leaving farmers as the proprietors of worldwide food production. Consequently this places the role of an agricultural science student as the future of innovation and the one to mediate change and development towards sustainable practices of agriculture.
With greenhouse gas emission goals set in place for both Ireland and the European Union, the European Green Deal looks towards making Europe carbon neutral by 2050 cutting emissions from agriculture by 30% by 2030 in line with emission levels set back in 2005. The main source of this contamination comes from methane through the process of enteric fermentation from livestock animals and nitrous oxide emissions from the soils, making up 80% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. The common agricultural policy’s ineffectiveness towards actively incentivising farmers to conduct effective measures leaves farmers leaning on pillar two for support.
Ireland's Climate change advisory council looked optimistically at the culling of 1.3 million of the national herd back in 2021
Although drastic if the CAP looked towards the reduction in livestock numbers and the cultivation of drained peatlands, this would bring about a 50% decrease of agriculture emissions and 20% respectively in the EU. Seen as an ‘easy way out’ of the climate battle, Ireland's Climate change advisory council looked optimistically at the culling of 1.3 million of the national herd back in 2021 and currently the Department of Agriculture looks towards incentives for farmers to reduce cow numbers via a cull cow scheme. These plans leave experts pressing to reassess and re-evaluate the way we measure methane production from livestock.
Simultaneously the drive for farmers to move from chemical fertilisers to the use of organic manure in the face of increasingly high fertiliser costs. Along with this the uncertainty of what the coming year will bring about with suspected food shortages internationally brought on by the ongoing war in Ukraine, farmers are left completely exposed. The continued rise of farm input prices and the plan set ahead for each farm to set aside valuable land to the planting of tillage crops led by a €12 million scheme devised by the government hopes to dampen down the suspected instability of grain markets in Europe.
Where does this leave us? Seen as ‘the engine room for the future of the agri-food sector’ UCD agriculture graduates are met with an impossible array of challenges and opportunities. Each major is being equipped with a plethora of expertise in crop production, animal husbandry and business management but is it enough to rely solely on the agri-environmental students to do the dirty work?
Along with this the uncertainty of what the coming year will bring about with suspected food shortages internationally brought on by the ongoing war in Ukraine, farmers are left completely exposed
Providing all majors with the knowledge and skills to contribute to the environmental protection of our land and the sustainable future farming practices is needed to not only reach EU and governmental emission targets, but to facilitate the agricultural industry to have a viable and worthwhile future. Altering the syllabus to include greater detail into how we can practically implement beneficial farming methods could enhance Ireland’s environmental standing through practices of amplified biodiversity, and actions to improve carbon capture and improve water quality. Early actions now can lead to a provident future should more unexpected turns come down the road.