Emissions savings from changes to tractor tyres

Image source: https://tinyurl.com/vrhkycsy

As part of my undergraduate degree in UCD, I undertook an elective module called Agriculture Power and Machinery. Reducing field compaction and fuel consumption of tractors is one very interesting topic we covered. Practical application of theories was examined, where several research trials pertaining to this module were carried out on Lyon’s Research Farm.

Various widths and pressures of machinery tyres were trialled, mainly those of tractors, with a view to reducing compaction of the soil which directly positively affected crop growth, efficiency, and yields. Tillage farming practices especially can be consistently improved to increase food security, efficiency, and yields, while simultaneously reducing the impact on the environment.

Images from ongoing trials on UCD Lyon’s farm.

The article below by Agriland outlines how certain makes of tyres are better suited to reduced pressures and how these types of tyres can save on fuel consumption. The correct type of tyres along with the correct tyre pressures for field or road applications are important factors. Fuel savings and lower level of field compaction ultimately lowers the overall emissions produced. Lower fuel consumption lowers CO2 produced from farming practices while lower compaction level leads to increase yields and efficiencies which also lowers emissions when farm inputs and outputs are considered.

Source: https://tinyurl.com/4kcfefst

Thesis Completed – Submission Day!

Since May I have been working on my thesis entitled: “Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock: State of the Art & Future Perspectives”. This has been both a challenging and rewarding few months as it has required many hours of work, completing the systematic literature review of the topic and writing the review. All the time and effort has been worth it when it all came together and it was submitted last Thursday ahead of the submission deadline. I am delighted to have this final major part of the Masters completed and look forward to hopefully graduating in the coming weeks.

I would like to thank all who contributed to the thesis, especially my two main NUIG program supervisors, Prof Charles Spillane and Dr. Peter McKeown. Their expertise and guidance over the past few months was first class. This thesis is my most significant written piece to date. Currently, it has been submitted to NUIG for final grading. Futhermore, a collaborative objective of my supervisors and myself from this research project is to submit to the review to Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, with the aim of it being accepted for publication in the coming weeks.

In the review I explored the existing gaps in current literature and conducted a systematic review on the topic. I reviewed all methods generally used to measure greenhouse gas emissions, by considering the advantages and disadvantages for each method. In future, I hope this analysis will help the agricultural industry choose one method over another, based on the needs of the user.

Greenfeed System – possible solution for livestock production systems

Image source: https://tinyurl.com/2v69f8pc

The GreenFeed System (GF) is measurement technique used for the short-term measurement of emissions from ruminant livestock which I have examined during my literature review for my thesis. The system is being used more and more each year due to a growing demand for such measurement systems. The GF system is a useful technique for grazing and feedlot situations, as it is portable and can be used for spot-sampling of livestock. In my opinion, this is a one of the greatest advantages the GF system has over other emission measurement techniques and makes it a viable solution for measuring emissions from livestock production systems.

The video below shows the design of the GF system which Dr. Patrick Zimmerman has designed and founded C-LOCK, a patented design of GF system. It is a impressive design, which has attracted the attention of many farmers and researchers in many countries across the world.


There are however, some concerns as to the accuracy of measurements from the GF system. I have found some studies, which have found that daily variations between animals and the system being based on animals voluntarily coming to the system means that that lower levels of accuracy are achieved when compared to the respiration chambers (RC) technique. However, the GF system is a less expensive technique compared to the RC technique. There is need for more research into the GF system so that improvements to the system can possibily be developed in future.

Below, I have found some tweets from people who have used the GF system. It seems to be gathering good public interest, as it has been found to work well on farms which have adopted the system for measuring emissions.


Hristov, A.N., Kebreab, E., Niu, M., Oh, J., Bannink, A., Bayat, A.R., et al. (2018). Symposium review: Uncertainties in enteric methane inventories, measurement techniques, and prediction models. Journal of dairy science 101(7), 6655-6674. doi: 10.3168/jds.2017-13536.

Patra, A.K. (2016). Recent advances in measurement and dietary mitigation of enteric methane emissions in ruminants. Frontiers in veterinary science 3(MAY), 39-39. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2016.00039.


Teagasc METH-ABATE project

Source: Teagasc, Athenry

Last week, I got to visit Teagasc in Athenry, County Galway, as part of my research project, which is to contribute to the METH-ABATE project. Emily, a current PhD student, showed us the ongoing work being done here and the details of the trial which is part of the METH-ABATE project. The trial’s duration is 16 weeks. The aim of this trial is to evaluate the effect of promising feed additives from a previous in vitro trial, on methane emissions, production variables and the rumen microbiome in sheep. Below shows the various treatments used during the trial and the differences between treatments in the 2 phases of the trial.

Treatment% inclusionDaily DMI (g DM)Daily additive inclusion  (g)
Seaweed K2150030
Extract F4150060
UHP A (0.5X)0.15715002.355
UHP B (1X)0.31315004.695
Treatments: Phase 1
Treatment% inclusionDaily DMI (g DM)Daily additive inclusion  (g)
Soya Oil (SO)4150060
Extract F4150060
UHP A (2X)0.62615009.39
UHP B (4X)1.252150018.78
UHP A + SO0.626 + 415002.355 + 60
Extract F + SO4 + 4150060 + 60
Treatments: Phase 2

The study consists of 140 sheep, with 20 sheep randomly assigned to each treatment. The feed intake of the sheep are measured and recorded daily. The image below shows the portable accumulation chambers (PAC) used for measuring the emissions from the sheep during the trial. It is a mobile unit which consists of 12 individual chambers. The unit is also used for measuring emissions from flocks of sheep on different farms across the country.

Portable Accumulation Chambers (PAC). Source: Teagasc Athenry.

Then the sheep are placed in the PAC as seen above and their methane output is measured. The ewes are kept in the PAC for 50 minutes and readings of the methane produced during this time are recorded at 25 minutes and 50 minutes using an electronic device seen below. This device shows the amount of methane, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in the chamber.

Device used to read the methane, CO2 and O2 concentrations within the PAC. Source: Teagasc, Athenry.

The data gathered on each animal is then stored on this device below. This data is then easily accesible and transferable online so that the user can analysed the data at a later stage.

Device used for recording and storing all data for the study. Source: Teagasc, Athenry.

All sheep are fed 3 hours before entering the PAC unit. They are then weighed using the electronic scales below, before entering the PAC and this information is stored in the device above. This data is used along with daily feed intake data for each animal to equate the methane emissions produced.

Electronic scales used for weighing the sheep. Source Teagasc, Athenry.

It was a very insightful visit to the research farm, as it showed me the innovative studies aimed at reducing methane from livestock which are ongoing. The PAC unit being used is a novel approach to measuring emissions from livestock in Ireland. It is providing researchers with valuable information on the types of diets which will be best for reducing methane from sheep.

Seaweed inclusion in livestock diets?

Image source: https://tinyurl.com/293d5sb3

Seaweed is currently being investigated for its inclusion in livestock diets to reduce methane emissions. Measuring the methane reductions possible by including seaweed in feeds is an area of research, which is quite topical at present. There are many studies being done currently, to examine the benefits of the inclusion of seaweed into the diets of livestock. All types of seaweeds are being researched and it seems that Australian red seaweed has the greatest potential for reducing methane from livestock. Abbot et al., (2020) has found methane reductions of up to 98% are possible with using some red seaweed types. This article below by Agriland looks at some of the various trials ongoing in various countries.

I have included a paragraph in the discussion of my thesis looking at seaweed as a solution to reducing emissions from ruminant livestock. I have found from my research of the topic that seaweed has great potential to provide a novel solution to methane mitigation from ruminants. However, the effectiveness, feasibility, and practicality of seaweed ingredients being included in livestock diets must be further researched to ensure the seaweed products are a success. There must be accurate measurements carried out on several realistic trials which will show the the emissions savings possible by using the seaweed-based feeds. The results from the studies should be then clearly portrayed, so that the idea can gain public acceptance.

Image source: https://tinyurl.com/xuy5y43y

It also must be factored into consideration, however, that emissions will arise from the collection, manufacturing, and transportation of the seaweed-based products. These emissions would only be taken into consideration when a life cycle assessment (LCA) is carried out. The LCA would take these knock-on emissions by including seaweed in livestock feeds into account. This would allow us to evaluate the overall emissions saved by using the seaweed for this purpose as a livestock feed ingredient.


Abbott, D.W., Aasen, I.M., Beauchemin, K.A., Grondahl, F., Gruninger, R., Hayes, M., Huws, S., Kenny, D.A., Krizsan, S.J., Kirwan, S.F. and Lind, V., 2020. Seaweed and seaweed bioactives for mitigation of enteric methane: Challenges and opportunities. Animals10(12), p.2432.

Morais, T., Inácio, A., Coutinho, T., Ministro, M., Cotas, J., Pereira, L., et al. (2020). Seaweed potential in the animal feed: A review. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 8(8), 559.

Irelands’ methane emissions from sheep – new approaches

In recent years, there has been substantial investment into researching various methods of reducing methane emissions from Irish Agriculture. Due to methanes high GWP (Global Warming Potential), reductions in methane are part of Irish emission mitigation strategies. As seen below, there are several studies undertaken recently, to examine the effectiveness of measurement techniques for measuring methane emissions from sheep. The SF6 technique is seen in operation on sheep. These are somewhat novel approaches to quantifying emissions from livetstock.

Organisations such as Teagasc are making huge progress in scaling out these technological methods of measurement to Irish farmers. The Portable Accumulation Chambers are pictured below measuring methane emissions from sheep on a commercial farm. This is a major milestone for Irish methane reduction efforts, as I feel that rolling out of modern technologies to farms should be prioritised in order to reach emission reduction targets.

The video below explains some of the ongoing work in Teagasc, which is focused on measuring methane emissions in sheep production systems. It is very interesting to see the new technologies which are currently available for measuring methane. I believe these types of studies will offer valuable insights for Irish farmers into how some sheep breeds emit greater amounts of methane than others. Livestock genetics is becoming increasingly important for farmers, to optimise livestock performance while also being mindful of emission outputs. Studies like these can showcase the best sheep breeds for reduced methane emissions.


Edel O’ Connor1,2, Nóirín McHugh 1, Tommy Boland 2, Eoin Dunne 1, Fiona  McGovern.1 1 Teagasc, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Athenry, Co. Galway.School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4.

IPCC stark 2021 report on climate change

Image source: https://tinyurl.com/c6etbatn

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 report was published this week. The report has highlighted the devastating impacts of climate change and how these impacts will worsen unless we act now. Some of the main points in the report are:

  1. Key knowledge about changing climate has been strengthened
  2. Humans are indisputibly responsible for these changes
  3. No corner of the earth is unaffected by climate change
  4. Some aspects of the climate system will continue to change for thousands of years
  5. We won’t be able to limit warming to 1.5 degrees without immediate global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  6. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are necessary to limit global warming

Below is a video from the RTÉ news, which portarys the reaction in Ireland to the IPCC report. It is clear that there is urgent need for change, to try and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees in the coming decades.

“Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in methane emissions”

RTÉ news, August 9, 2021

I feel that in order for us to reduce methane emissions from agriculture, there is need for increased and more efficient measuring of emissions such as methane. As stated in the video above, farmers are willing to tackle the challenge facing them with regards to reducing emissions such as methane. The climate action plan which is soon set to be published must financially support those who are willing to adapt.

Image source: https://tinyurl.com/f67h2zsk

My MScCCAFS thesis entitled “Measurement of emissions from ruminant livestock: State of the Art & Future” ties nicely into this topic. I have been looking at, both current and future techniques which can be used for measuring emissions from ruminants. I have found that there is a need for greater research into the topic and a need for greater development of emission measurement strategies. I feel that the measuring of emissions from livestock will underpin the success or failure of emission mitigation strategies from agriculture in future.


IPCC, 2021: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth
Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.
L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J. B.
R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In

Peter Thorne. (2021). 6 key takeaways from the new climate change report. Available: https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2021/0809/1239772-ipcc-report-2021-key-takeaways/. Last accessed 10th August 2021.

MScCCAFS Research Project -“Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock: State of the Art and Future Perspectives”

Image source: tinyurl.com/3pks559a

Over the past few months I have been working on our MScCCAFS research thesis composed of a review publication with the title “Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock: State of the Art and Future Perspectives“. I systematically reviewed all available literature on the research topic and I am currently generating a review publication.

I looked at many of the key techniques which are currently being used for measuring both direct and indirect GHG emissions occuring from ruminant livestock. I decided to look at measurment techniques being used on individual animals, at farm level and at a national level. Furthermore, I am looking at emerging technologies which may improve the measurement process in future. I will also be examining current knowledge gaps in modelling of emissions from livestock and how accuracy of measurements is an issue which can be improved going forward.

The images below are some examples of techniques which are currently being used to measure emissions from ruminant livetsock.

Portable Accumulation Chamber used for measuring emissions from sheep
Image source: https://www.teagasc.ie/environment/climate-change–air-quality/methane
Methane measurement devices used on cows in Germany
Image source: https://tinyurl.com/58845bbb

I will continue to work on this research project over the next few weeks and hope to get some part-time research training completed with the on-going Teagasc – NUI Galway METHABATE project which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock. I hope to have my first draft completed soon and get it reviewed by my supervisors. Then hopefully, I will get the paper to publication quality in the Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems format which is required.

Organic farming?… Having the potential to help boost nature-positive production?

Organic crops being sown in a rotation

The Food Systems Summit in 2021 will be a chance for the UN to assess progress on the delivery of the 17 SDG’s previously outlined in 2015, and develop an overall aim towards 2030. The summit will be the beginning of new bold actions and ambitious goals as they make plans to transform our food systems towards more equitable and sustainable processes. There are five main action tracks which are at the heart of the summit’s priorities and furthermore goals. These include;

  • Action Track 1: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all
  • Action Track 2: Shift to sustainable consumption patterns
  • Action Track 3: Boost nature-positive production
  • Action Track 4: Advance equitable livelihoods
  • Action Track 5: Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress

Action Track 3, comprises of goals and actions that aim achieve adequate food production for our growing population through the use of our world’s environmental and biological resources appropriately. Goals specific to action track 3 prioitize reductions in; biodiversity loss, pollution, excessive water use, soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions. These are all components which are all common trade-offs of conventional farming which has left our food systems unsustainable in many parts of the world. This action track aims to revaluate the food value chain, to get fair and equal opportunities for smallholder farmers and enterprises who are currently struggling, whilst lessening some of the burdens which they face on a daily basis. I feel that reducing environmental impacts from food production is one of the most critical actions that must be persued. Organic farming may prove to be the most appropriate and suitable innovative technique to make major sustainable contributions towards achieving the goals of this action track.

Organic farming uses all of the above regenerative agriculture techniques to ensure good land health and high levels of productivity, whilst ensuring biodiversity is retained and environmental harm is minimised. The reduced costs from organic farming along with premium prices obtained for organic produce, means that it can provide a sustainable livlihood for many smallholder farmers. Many of these who are from developing countries already have limited access to resources such as chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides, thus organic farming is a viable option for them (Jouzi et al., 2017).

This tweet from the Irish Organic Association portrays how organic farming can boost nature-positive production.

Crop rotation is a practice which is one of the fundamental parts of organic tillage farming as it has several benefits to maintaining good soil health and overall crop performance. Using practices such as minimal disturbance of soil for cultivation is perceived to be one of the main challenges which faces organic farming as many believe it may limit achieving high yields in certain crops. However, studies show that implementing shallow non-inversion methods of cultivation, resulted in no declines in yields, when compared to deep inversion tillage methods. Further issues regarding weed infestations of crops were deemed to have limited effect in these trials using shallow non-inversion methods of cultivation on organic farms. The incorporation of crop residues into the soil and the use of cover crops, can add to the carbon stock of soils which helps to increase the organic matter content and overall soil quality (Cooper et al., 2016).

This Teagasc webinar gives an insight into Ireland’s organic farming situation currently.

Further studies of organic farming show some farmer health benefits associated with this method of farming. The use of pesticides in conventional farming was linked with genotoxicity and genetic damage in some farmers who were exposed to such pesticides. These studies show how organic farming can reduce the risk on human health from a farmer’s perspective, compared with conventional farming (Costa et al., 2014). Furthermore the consumption of food grown organically can be healthier for human consumption according to some reports. The risk of allergic diseases and obesity can be lessened with the consumption of organic food compared with conventional foods in some circumstances. Residues of pesticides found in certain conventionally grown fruits and vegetables poses adverse effects on human health, especially on children’s development (Mie et al., 2017).


Cooper, J., Baranski, M., Stewart, G., Nobel-de Lange, M., Bàrberi, P., Fließbach, A., . . . Mäder, P. (2016). Shallow non-inversion tillage in organic farming maintains crop yields and increases soil C stocks : a meta-analysis. Agronomy for sustainable development, 36(1), 1-20. doi:10.1007/s13593-016-0354-1

Costa, C., García-Lestón, J., Costa, S., Coelho, P., Silva, S., Pingarilho, M., . . . Teixeira, J. P. (2014). Is organic farming safer to farmers’ health? A comparison between organic and traditional farming. Toxicology letters, 230(2), 166-176. doi:10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.02.011

Jouzi, Z., Azadi, H., Taheri, F., Zarafshani, K., Gebrehiwot, K., Van Passel, S., & Lebailly, P. (2017). Organic Farming and Small-Scale Farmers: Main Opportunities and Challenges. Ecological Economics, 132, 144-154. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.10.016

Mie, A., Andersen, H. R., Gunnarsson, S., Kahl, J., Kesse-Guyot, E., Rembialkowska, E., . . . Grandjean, P. (2017). Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environmental health, 16(1), 111-111. doi:10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4

Philips – circular economy : an approach for a sustainable future

Philips have been one of the first electronic companies to fully pursue a change towards a more circular economic approach. In recent years they’ve placed great emphasis on the application of ‘circular economy’ to their products and services which is hugely important for sustainability. We can see below a schematic, outlining how Philips are currently practicing circular economy. They have set out ambitious targets to reach, as they aim to tackle some of the sustainable development goals especially SDG 12, ‘responsible consumption and production’.

How Philips are implementing circular economy principles

For example, their Performer Ultimate vacuum cleaner is a product which has been designed to have and support a circular economy and it’s principles. It is manufactured with 36% recycled plastics, which is a fundamental aspect of Philips’ approach to designing their consumer products. All products are designed with an aim towards reaching sustainability targets, as they hope to achieve 25% of their sales from circular products, services and solutions by 2025.

Philips Performer Ultimate vacuum made with some recycled plastics

“Transitioning to a circular economy requires all of us to team up and commit to doing things fundamentally differently. The PACE Action Agenda will help guide and drive circular ways of working across the board, changing how we create value without devastating environmental impact. I call on all leaders in public and private sectors to join PACE and commit to adopt climate actions and prioritize circularity”.

Frans van Houten
CEO Royal Philips
This video portrays the ambition Philips has towards a circular economy