TEAGASC has proposed 21 amendments to the draft nitrates regulations based on solid scientific research.
A detailed 120-page document has been submitted to the Department of Environment and to the Department of Agriculture.
The amendments, part of a consultative process for a review of the regulations, have been subjected to an environmental impact assessment and cross-evaluated to ensure synergy between the proposals.
Teagasc said the combined objectives of the proposals can lead to more effective protection of the rural aquatic environment and more efficient production of food.
It describes how there can be significant time lags between changes in farm nutrient management and improvements in water quality.
This is important in the context of setting realistic expectations for improvements in the quality of water.
Teagasc identified significant practical and logistical challenges faced by farmers and advisers in implementing the nutrient regulations.
Director of research, Frank O’Mara, said the current format for implementing the regulations may be over-complicated, imposing a significant and unnecessary administrative burden on farmers and agricultural advisers.
Teagasc is proposing that the method of calculation of nitrogen and phosphorus allowances is rationalised and simplified.
Regarding the closed period for spreading animal manures, it is proposing that the flexibility in implementing the “closed periods” applied by the minister in 2008 and 2009 is regularised and based on an objective assessment of environmental risks.
Teagasc acknowledges the challenges that the nitrates regulations present for pig and poultry producers.
Changes to the nitrogen index for tillage crops are proposed to encourage the use of pig and poultry manure by tillage farmers.
It is also proposed that the provision of manure storage facilities on tillage farms be encouraged and supported to ensure that the manure is available during the limited time period it can be applied.
Teagasc also proposes that the regulations on the management of soiled water can be simplified.
IFA environment chairman Pat Farrell said the Teagasc submission is a very important basis for real changes and flexibilities in the way the nitrates regulations are enforced.
Teagasc has now produced the science to show the significant problems with phosphorous deficiency, calendar farming and inadequate nitrogen and phosphorous allowances which currently exist.
“It is critical Teagasc now ensure that each of their 21 scientific amendments is accepted,” he said
Mr Farrell said it is important Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture work to identify solutions to ensure the extension of the phosphorous provision for the pig and poultry sectors, and the permanent removal of the ban on winter ploughing.
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