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Changes to Nitrates Action Plan

February 8th, 2018 11:51 AM

By Southern Star Team

Aoife Healy, Teagasc

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THE Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, along with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, have negotiated Irelands 4th Nitrates Action Plan in compliance with the European Nitrates Directive. 

Teagasc held two information events during January in West Cork to update farmers on the recent changes to the Nitrates Directive. The main changes to this, the 4th Nitrates Action Plan (NAP) incorporate new strengthened water protection measures, improved soil fertility and changes and stricter conditions for farmers who apply for nitrates derogations.

Water protection measures – The new strengthened water protection measures are focused on intercepting and breaking nutrient transport pathways and preventing sediment and nutrient losses to waters.

It is important to note that the Nitrates Regulations SI no 605 of 2017 defines waters as 

a)  Any (or any part of any) river, stream, lake, canal, reservoir, aquifer, pond, watercourse, or other inland waters, whether natural or artificial, b)  Any tidal waters, and c)  Where the context permits, any beach, river bank and salt marsh or other area which is contiguous to anything mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b), and the channel or bed of anything mentioned in paragraph (a) which is for the time being dry, but does not include a sewer.

The update to the NAP brings the nitrates regulations in line with GAEC under cross-compliance. This measure focuses on limiting soil erosion by using appropriate cropping practices and cropping structures and ensuring livestock are managed to prevent overgrazing and poaching from occurring.

From January 1st , 2021: 

• Farms stocked at 170kg of nitrogen per hectare and above will be required to exclude bovines from watercourses to reduce and prevent sediment and nutrient losses and prevent riverbank erosion.

• Farmers stocked at 170kg N/ha and above will be required to keep all livestock drinking points a minimum of 20 metres from water.

• The Department of Agriculture, Food and The Marine are currently working on specifications which would require farmers to camber farm roadways away from the direction of water courses.

Soil fertility – Farms stocked at greater than 130kg N/ha can apply to the Nitrates Section of the Department of Agriculture (through a FAS approved advisor) for an increased Phosphorus allowance. 

This would allow farmers with index 1 soils to increase their allowance of Phosphorus to 50kg/ha, and farmers with index 2 soils to increase their Phosphorus allowance to 30kg/ha. 

Soil samples will have to be taken in advance of submitting an application for this increased Phosphorus allowance. Soil samples will only be valid for four years and the maximum area covered by a single soil sample is restricted to five hectares. Farmers wishing to avail of this allowance must also complete a short training course, which the Department of Agriculture are currently finalising the details of. 

Farmers who do not make an application to the Department for the increased Phosphorus build up allowance will be constrained by the existing Phosphorus build up rates. If you wish to make an application to increase your Phosphorus allowance, please contact your local advisor as soon as possible.

In order to make calculating Nitrogen and Phosphorus allowances easier, the requirement to deduct Nitrogen and Phosphorus in grazing livestock manures during the storage period is being removed and nutrient management plans will now be based on the previous year’s stocking rates.

Derogation 2018-2021 – Any farmer applying for a nitrates derogation, to increase their stocking rate to 250kg Nitrogen per hectare from 2018 to 2021 must:

•  Spread 50% of all slurry produced on farm by June 15th annually.

• Spread slurry using only Low-Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment after June 15th annually.

•  Have sufficient storage for all livestock manure and soiled water produced on the holding.

•    Submit soil samples every four years with one sample covering a maximum of five  hectares.

These measures have been introduced as a result of the need to maintain and improve our water quality nationally. If you are looking to apply for the Phosphorus build up allowance, nitrates derogation, or need further information on the measures outlined, contact your local Teagasc office: Clonakilty 023-8863130, Skibbereen 028-2188 or Macroom 026-41604.

• Aoife Healy is a Teagasc dairy advisor based in Skibbereen.

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