Information events on the public consultation on the draft Ammonia Strategy, launched by DAERA, will be taking place later this month in each of the three main campuses of CAFRE.

DAERA says its draft Ammonia Strategy is the first of its kind for Northern Ireland and they are keen for anyone with an interest to participate and provide their views.

Responses to this consultation will inform a reworked strategy with proposed targets for 2030 that will help to secure the restoration of biodiversity, ecosystems, and the services they provide, while also facilitating the sustainable development of a prosperous agri-food industry.

This public consultation is open for a period of eight weeks until midnight, March 3.

An information event has been organised at each of the three CAFRE campuses, starting with Greenmount Campus on January 24, Enniskillen Campus on January 25 and Loughry Campus on January 31.

Each meeting will commence at 7.30pm and last approximately one hour.

To reserve your place at a meeting, register through Eventbrite at

Robert Edwards, Air Quality Technologist at CAFRE, explains below the background to the ammonia emissions and agriculture.

"Ammonia is a naturally occurring gas containing nitrogen and hydrogen, with the chemical formula NH3.

"Some agricultural practices and activities encourage the loss of nitrogen into the atmosphere in the form of ammonia and result from undigested protein from livestock diets excreted from the animal in faeces and urine.

"When faeces – which contains the enzyme, urease – and urine – which contains urea – mix, ammonia is produced and released into the atmosphere.

"Ammonia is emitted whether the mixing of urine and faeces occurs on the floor of the livestock shed or during slurry storage," he said.

Robert explains that based on 2020 calculations, 96 per cent of the total ammonia produced in Northern Ireland comes from agriculture.

The figures show that cattle and sheep produce 68.9 per cent of emissions, with pig and poultry producing 20.1 per cent; the remaining emissions being from inorganic fertiliser spreading and land spreading of anaerobic digestate.

"We can see that cattle manure management, and land application, is responsible for 61.3 per cent of agricultural ammonia emissions, whilst other livestock manure management and land applications accounted for 20.2 per cent of emissions.

"In comparison, all emissions from livestock, whilst grazing, accounted for only 7.4 per centt of agricultural emissions," said Robert.

He outlined that when ammonia is produced and emitted into the atmosphere in a process known as nitrogen deposition.

Ammonia circulates as an atmospheric gas and is dispersed and deposited either as a gas (dry deposition) or in rainfall (wet deposition).

When ammonia, containing nitrogen, is deposited in high concentrations it can acidify and enrich soils and fresh waters by over-supplying nitrogen to nitrogen-sensitive plant species.

Excess nitrogen can be lost from soils into freshwater eco-systems. This causes a process known as eutrophication, where excess nutrients cause an increase in plant growth, removing oxygen from the water, and adversely affecting the marine ecosystem.

As part of the UN Gothenburg protocol, the UK Government is committed to having reduced ammonia by 8 per cent in 2022, and by 16 per cent in 2030, compared to the levels of 2005.

However, ammonia emissions have increased since 2010 due to rising dairy cattle numbers, and hence emissions from manure management practices for these animals, and from the spreading of cattle manure to agricultural soils.

Recent studies have shown that 98 per cent of Northern Ireland's Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), 83.3 per cent of Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and 88.3 per cent of Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) have nitrogen deposition rates which will put the ecosystem at risk.

Efficiently managing nitrogen on farms will reduce ammonia emissions.

In livestock diets, balancing protein intake to the requirement of the animal will minimise excess nitrogen being excreted. A reduction of 1 per cent crude protein content in ruminant diets can reduce NH3 emission by 5–15 per cent.

Housing, management and manure storage are also important. Low-emission floor types are available that will help keep dung and urine separate.

In addition, Robert explains that slatted flooring designs are also available with slat flaps. Modern floor design, using grooved flooring systems with toothed scrapers, can achieve 40–50 per cent reduction in ammonia losses.

Covers on outdoor slurry stores (above ground slurry stores or lagoons) can effectively reduce ammonia emissions.

Introducing protected fertiliser products, treated with nitrogen inhibitors, slows the loss of nitrogen to the atmosphere allowing more to be available for the growing crop.

Protected urea, compared to conventional urea, can reduce ammonia emissions by up to 79 per cent.

Robert explains the traditional slurry spreading practice, of using a splash plate, can result in losses of up to 80 per cent of the nitrogen content of the slurry to the atmosphere.

Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE) reduces ammonia emissions by retaining more nitrogen in the slurry.

The four main types of slurry application offer varying levels of ammonia reduction: trailing hose (30 per cent reduction), trailing shoe (60 per cent reduction), shallow injection (70 per cent reduction) and deep injection (90 per cent).

In grazing conditions, urine, when excreted by grazing animals, does not normally mix with faeces, so the action of urease on urea in urine is minimised; meaning lower ammonia emissions when livestock are at grass.

Therefore, ammonia emissions per animal are much less during grazing compared to housed periods.

AFBI have calculated that a total confinement dairy system has an increase in ammonia emissions, per litre of milk, of more than 30 per cent compared to a traditional system where the cows graze during the summer months.