Press release

New research will help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Agriculture contributes about eight per cent of all UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Jim Paice, Minister of State for Agriculture, today announced funding of £12.6 million, from Defra and the Devolved Administrations, to improve our understanding of how UK agriculture contributes to climate change.

But the way farming emissions are calculated fails to take into account the differences between different farming practices or the effects of innovative approaches and new policies that aim to reduce GHG emissions. This research will help us to understand these differences and give farmers the evidence needed to take more effective steps to reduce emissions.

Speaking at Crop World 2010, Jim Paice said:

‘Tackling climate change is a priority as we work towards being the greenest Government ever. This investment demonstrates our commitment to supporting the agricultural sector as it faces the challenges of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Farmers are already taking action to reduce their impact on climate change and this £12.6 million investment in world class research and development will enable us to understand which measures are having the biggest impacts.’

The current method for calculating agricultural emissions uses a simplified approach, which is the minimum required by the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the UK National Inventory. This approach relies on generic emissions values and on national statistics such as livestock numbers and tonnes of fertiliser used.

The £12.6m will be invested over four and half years in a series of projects that aim to strengthen our understanding of emissions produced on farms. For example, it may show that applying fertiliser to certain crops at different times may reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Or that some livestock breeds produce less methane than others under different farming systems. Knowing when and where actions make the most difference will improve the positive actions that farmers are already taking.

Sixteen research organisations from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will contribute to the project, managed by Defra.


  • The £12.6m funding for this new project has come from Defra’s existing budget on Farming and Food Science, and includes contributions from the Devolved Administrations.
  • From 1990 - 2008, the agriculture sector accounted for:
    76 per cent of UK nitrous oxide (N20) emissions, mainly from the use of nitrogen fertilisers
    38 per cent of the UK’s methane (CH4) emissions, mainly from the digestive systems of livestock and from manure
    1 per cent of the UK’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
    (from 2010 DECC publication of GHG emissions)
  • The English agriculture industry published its GHG Action Plan in February 2010, making a firm commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The industry will shortly publish a delivery plan, outlining the activities that will translate into practical actions.
  • The first phase of investment will focus on improving accuracy and resolution of current emission factors through three closely-linked projects:
    • Data management and modelling - bringing existing data together to create a new inventory model and a set of revised emission factors with an assessment of uncertainty.
    • Methane (CH4) emissions - discrimination between CH4 missions from different livestock species and breeds/genotypes under different farming systems and representative farm business structures.
    • Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions - understanding N2O emissions as a function of N inputs through time, influence of climate, crop, soil types and conditions, and land management under different farming systems and representative farm business structures.**
Published 3 November 2010