Nitrate derogation clampdown

Nitrate derogation clampdown

Greater nitrogen use efficiency, and trailing shoe slurry application, will be introduced this month on more intensive farms, according to Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.

He said these are among measures recommended by an expert panel in a ‘voluntary’ review by his Department in 2019 of the Nitrates Derogation.

Other changes expected are a farm-scale liming programme, disallowing commonage or rough grazing for derogation, earlier lodging of slurry export movement forms, and inclusion of clover in reseeding mixes.

Earlier this year, IFA inputs project team chairman John Coughlan had warned some of the proposals are unworkable.

If the changes are introduced as proposed earlier this year, more than 7,000 farmers could have to condition their soils with lime, measure grass growth, and include clover in new swards.

These farmers avail of the nitrates derogation to operate with more livestock per acre than stipulated in the EU’s Nitrates Directive. They manage 20% of the country’s bovine livestock, on 11% of Ireland’s farmland.

Many new requirements will also apply to a further 5,000 farmers, who have 13% of the country’s cattle. They exceeded a 170kg N/ha livestock manure limit, but exported slurry or took other actions to comply with this Nitrates Directive limit.

A compulsory liming programme is designed to improve soil fertility, so that less artificial fertiliser is needed to grow grass.

Also expected is compulsory grass measurement training for 7,000 farmers, to record their annual grass production. Including clover in grass reseeds may become compulsory for 7,000 farmers. Clover captures nitrogen from the air, facilitating reduced use of artificial fertiliser.

Requirements to reduce protein in concentrate feeds for grazing livestock, and to use only low emission slurry spreading after April 15, 2020, and after January 12, 2021, are likely for 12,000 farmers.

It is also expected that commonage or rough grazing cannot be included for calculation of a derogation farmer’s chemical fertiliser allowance.

The review group also recommended adoption of a biodiversity measure, and All Island Pollinator Plan measures, by derogation farmers.

The group said 65% of cattle are on farms with stocking rates over 130 kgs/ha, and the next Nitrates Programme review should examine how to reduce their environmental footprint.

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