Marks and Spencer (M&S) remains committed to meeting the food retailer’s key climate change targets into the future.

In turn, this will challenge its 8,500 farmer-suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations.

According to M&S head of agriculture, Steve McLean, developing technologies will help these targets to be met.

Speaking at this year’s Balmoral Show, he profiled the inclusion of the methane inhibitor, Bovaer, as a case in point.

“The product works and we are already specifying its inclusion in dairy rations,” McLean said.

But, McLean recognises that the current format of the product does not allow its use in grazing scenarios.

“I am confident that research will deliver a feasible methane mitigation option for grazing livestock in the very near future,” he added.

Again, where new technologies are concerned, M&S is helping to pioneer the use of new, environment-compatible fertilisers in the UK.

Known as Impact Zero, the product range is manufactured by Fertiberia in Spain using green hydrogen (H).

The fertilisers contain a mix of nitric and ammoniacal nitrogen (N), as well as plant-available sulphur (S) for effective plant growth and to drive nitrogen-use efficiency.

In addition, they contain an exclusive biodegradable regulating polymer coating that reduces leaching losses.

 Overall, this delivers a level N-use efficiency that is 22% higher than normally secured from conventional fertilisers.

urea fertiliser European

This figure is supported by preliminary data from trials on M&S dairy farms, which show that the product applied at a rate of 150kg/ha (equivalent to 36 kg of N/ha) leads to 31% higher yields over two silage cuts, than an NS 27:12 product at the equivalent application rate.

 In addition, the inclusion of green hydrogen in the fertiliser manufacturing process brings about a 3t reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per tonne of ammonia used.

These comparisons relate to the use of a conventional fertiliser.

This sees the production of ammonia move from utilising natural gas to produce hydrogen, to using only water and renewable energy, there significantly reducing the environmental impact of the fertiliser manufacturing process.

According to McLean: “As a business, M&S has set bold targets to reduce our carbon footprint and become a net zero business across our entire value chain by 2040.”

72% of the M&S Food’s emissions come from agriculture and around half of these are from livestock, primarily ruminants.

“As such, it is critical that we work with our farmers to deliver meaningful change. We believe that the use of these fertilisers will enable our farmers to maintain productivity whilst playing an important role in helping to decarbonise milk production,” he added.