Irish agriculture would benefit greatly from the creation of an “indigenous supply” of bio-fertiliser, according to the industry.
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With this in mind, Government has been called on to “fast-track” legislation and classification of “highly valuable and environmentally sustainable nutrients as products” by Dolan Industries Ltd.
The use of dry digestate, liquid digestate and bio-solids from anaerobic digestion and biomethane facilities that currently exist in the country would complement the use of standard chemical-based fertilisers, John Dolan, director of Dolan Industries told a recent Oireachtas meeting of the joint committees on agriculture, food and the marine, and environment and climate action.
“Currently these valuable sources of nutrients are highly sought after in the current fertiliser crisis,” he said, and are “indeed valuable sources of nutrients for farmers at a fraction of the prices of current chemical fertilisers”.
He described the anaerobic digestion sector in Ireland as being “in its infancy”, however, “it offers solutions in providing renewable, sustainable locally-sourced and produced bio-fertilisers currently at present if legislation can be changed as quickly as possible to help avert the effects of much of this current fertiliser crisis”.
This would also allow for Ireland to create its own indigenous supply of fertiliser as a result while also creating renewable energy helping the country achieve its climate targets by the end of the decade.
He said that “reclassifying digestates” as by-products and natural fertilisers would allow the anaerobic digestion and agricultural industry “to work side by side to grow and develop with greater policy initiatives and measures developing the supply of renewable energy and fertiliser”, along with tackling climate change and protecting soils and water quality.
His submission to the committee noted that nutrient-rich fertilisers such as digestate are important in a year such as this and that “restrictive” rules in accessing locally-sourced fertilisers should not exist.
He told the Oireachtas joint committees that combining the “latest technology in terms of prescription-based variable rate nutrient application maps” offers “full transparency to all relevant authorities and regulatory bodies on how and where the nutrients have been applied”.
“It is also recommended that these products are applied using only variable rate technology, data recording, and prescription-based mapping in order to fully maximise best practice and ensure full transparent traceability of all applications of nutrients, regardless of location, to all relevant authorities both locally, nationally and at European level,” he said.
Matthew Macken, Dolan Industries technical manager/advisor said that Ireland is “quite behind” UK and EU counterparts in this area. “There’s quite valuable nutrient contents contained within digestate,” he said.
The biggest change that we would like to see is the reclassifying of digestate from waste to an organic fertiliser product, which it is, it’s quite high in nutritive content.
He said that there has been a positive response from farmers using such products, but reiterated that the area is quite “restrictive” at the moment due to legislation.
Facilities that treat waste by composting of anaerobic digestion are licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency, if above licensable thresholds.