Cutting carbon emissions can save farmers money, Cork farmer says

Jack Kearney now farms ‘at a bigger advantage’ environmentally and financially

Jack Kearney, who farms in Rathcomac, Co Cork, is a participant in the Teagasc/Glanbia Future Farm programme and is a Teagasc ‘Signpost farmer’

Jack Kearney, who farms in Rathcomac, Co Cork, is a participant in the Teagasc/Glanbia Future Farm programme and is a Teagasc ‘Signpost farmer’

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Meeting carbon emissions targets is daunting for many farmers, but Co Cork farmer Jack Kearney believes progress can be made. Since he started to change his methods three years ago, Kearney, a farmer in his mid-20s working 78 hectares near Rathcormac, has reduced by more than 15 per cent the amount of carbon emissions the farm produces.

Kearney, who works with his parents Larry and Annette, is a participant in the Teagasc/Glanbia Future Farm programme and is a Teagasc “Signpost farmer”.

Twelve young farmers were chosen as pathfinders to show others in a traditional industry new ways to farm more efficiently, as well as to do so a more environmentally-friendly way.

Kearney went from using 255kg of nitrogen per hectare in 2019 to 190kg this year – in ways that cut emissions and saved him money.

“I’ve been able to farm as I normally would but at a bigger advantage, ” he said. “I’ve found making these changes benefits me financially, so it makes sense to switch to more environmentally-friendly ways of farming.”

Fertiliser

Protected urea, a fertiliser coated with an enzyme that curbs the amount of ammonia created, has helped to reduce carbon emissions on the farm by 7 per cent on its own, he said.

After switching to it three years ago, he still grew the same volume of grass, but with less nitrogen, he said. Growing clover has also helped, he added.

Slurry spreading is one of the major causes of emissions from farms, but a new style of spreading slurry called Less (low-emission slurry spreading) has reduced emissions on Kearney’s farm by 2 per cent.

“I switched to using this kind of slurry spreader in 2019, and it has made the process that much quicker. Making these kinds of changes doesn’t happen overnight, but the financial benefits are there for me as a farmer,” he said.

Reducing the amount of feed for his cows by 150kg – without compromising on milk production – was another quick and easy way to cut carbon emissions, he said.

Pointing to Kearney, Dr Seamus Kearney from the Teagasc Signpost programme (no relation) said: “A lot can be achieved in a short time by going after what I call ‘quick wins’.

“That can involve something as simple as switching to the 100 per cent protected urea fertiliser. You can see results straight away. One hundred per cent protected urea fertiliser is the agricultural answer to the electrical car,” he said.