Carbon Sequestration in Ireland – A Climate Solution Requiring Measurement and Planning

  • Preliminary research suggests that carbon sequestration on mineral soils in Ireland could be underestimated
  • Agro-forestry experiments can maintain the dairy herd, sequester carbon and assist with improving water quality and reducing ammonia emissions
  • Ireland’s net emitter status in part due to peat soils – is re-wetting or reduced management the answer?

Carbon sequestration is the process of locking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the soil and keeping it there. Ireland is 65% grassland, and farmers across the island are planting and conserving hedgerows and trees to maximise the sequestration process. Measuring quantities sequestered, to establish baselines and assess the effect they could have on Ireland’s total emission figures is challenging.


Across a sample of 100 Irish farms, The VistaMilk SFI Research Centre, and Teagasc (the Agriculture and Food Development Authority), have been carrying out the most comprehensive study of carbon sequestration ever undertaken in Ireland. They are working under the auspices of the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory (NASCO) and the aim is to establish an accurate base line for the current carbon absorption rates across many different Irish soil types and land usages.


Professor Gary Lanigan, Principal Research Officer and leader of the VistaMilk project co-funded by Dairy Research ireland, said: “This work is essential as we currently do not have accurate figures for carbon sequestration in Ireland, but they could be understated. Our work will help establish a baseline and, using predictive modelling, suggest to farmers courses of action to increase carbon uptake on their land.


“It’s not easy – there’s hundreds of tonnes of background carbon in the soil and we’re measuring changes of one or two tonnes, but a combination of methods is helping deliver results. We’re using soil sampling, field comparisons, farmer contributions (through the Bord Bia ‘Carbon Navigator’), observation data from drones and from satellites in space.


“Probably the most important weapon in our arsenal, however, are carbon towers capable of measuring really small changes in the amount of carbon in the air 10 times a second. In fact, our set up is the densest distribution of carbon towers in Europe and we are measuring methane as well.”


Data from all these measurement solutions informs predictive modelling used to recommend to farmers the ways they can affect carbon sequestration, either increasing or decreasing it.

Professor Lanigan said “The results of our research will allow us to offer realistic solutions to those that are the custodians of our lands, particularly the 17,500 Irish dairy farming families, that will improve Ireland’s ability to sequester carbon to be offset against the nation’s GHG emissions.

“We will be able to show how things like planting new hedgerows or the distribution of trees in a field, better pasture management and partial rewetting of peatland can allow farming to thrive yet reduce its carbon output without having to reduce the Irish herd.”




For more information, or to arrange an interview with a VistaMilk spokesperson:

Jeremy Probert | 4TC | | 00 353 (0) 89 700 0792 |

Craig McKechnie | | 00 353 (0) 87 621 8839 |


Notes to Editors:


VistaMilk SFI Research Centre

Established in 2018, the VistaMilk SFI Research Centre identifies challenges and solves problems for the Irish dairy sector in four specific areas – soil, pasture, cow, and food. VistaMilk is a unique collaboration between Agri-Food and information communications technology (ICT) research institutes and leading Irish/multinational food and ICT companies. It is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM).


Through strategic collaboration and co-ordination, VistaMilk’s research programme provides an opportunity to acquire, analyse and act upon data to generate a range of recommendations and practical solutions to real and current issues. VistaMilk’s access to expertise and resources makes it an authoritative voice on a range of topics facing the Irish dairy industry, including sustainability, emissions reduction, and carbon sequestration.


VistaMilk’s projects will enable Irish dairy farmers to develop the sustainable practices that will protect the 18,000 family farms, the 60,000 jobs and the €5bn yearly economic contribution that dairy supports in this country. It will also provide consumers with the reassurance of knowing that the dairy products they buy continue to be both farmed and processed locally.