Native Species: Ammonia Pollution Levels

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:15 pm, 22nd September 2020

Yes, we can. I would like a wide and potentially all-embracing means of addressing those issues, and ammonia is a key part of that. We believe that we can reduce ammonia emissions by, for example, stopping slurry spreading that uses the traditional splash plate in most instances and moving to a low-emissions spreading operation by 2025. We are giving people some time to acquire the appropriate equipment. That is a course of work that will help.

Covering open tanks would also reduce the amount of ammonia, and there are opportunities from having more separation of slurry because it is when the urine and the faeces mix that you get the greatest release of ammonia. So, if we can have more separation in the slats that are provided for animals to lie on, that will be part of a range of work that will proactively reduce ammonia levels.

We can probably get a reduction of 15% to 20% quite quickly, which is significant in and of itself, but getting much further than that will require significant investment. The capacity to make that investment does not exist in agriculture, and it will therefore require support from the Government if we are serious about it.

I have asked my officials to bring forward proposals that would look at how we can get to net zero in agriculture. Those proposals will include ways for us to deal with the ammonia issue at the same time. That will involve a capital infrastructure programme, which will mean that we, as an Executive, will need to support it financially.