The upcoming ban preventing farmers who have a nitrates derogation from ploughing grassland is facing increasingly strong criticism.

From Tuesday (May 31), farmers under derogation will not be able to plough their land, as part of new conditions to Ireland’s nitrates derogation.

Minimum tillage (‘min-till’) and some other reseeding methods can still be used.

However, as May 31 approaches, some farming organisations and rural politicians are warning of the scale of the change.

Speaking to Agriland today (Friday, May 27), Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard highlighted: “Reseeding after second-cut silage has been practiced for a long time.

“However, this is now effectively going to be limited to a minimum tillage option rather and the traditional ploughing,” he added.

The Co. Cork senator also heavily criticised how communicating this change to farmers was handled by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

“The Department of Agriculture’s communication on this issue has been appalling.”

According to Lombard, the ban on these farmers ploughing grassland “goes against best practice and training that the majority of farmers have received in the last 20 years”.

He also highlighted the timing of the ban in light of a potential fodder shortage later in the year due to high fertiliser prices.

“With the potential of limited fodder [supply] because of the cost of nitrogen, the need for the department to relook at this measure is essential,” Lombard stressed.

The European Commission Implementing Decision that extended Ireland’s nitrates derogation states: “Farmers who wish to plough grassland shall do so between March 1 and May 31.”

This means that the ploughing of grassland cannot take place outside of these dates on derogation farms.

According to the department, ploughing “can lead to an increase in nitrogen mineralisation in the soil and there is a risk that this nitrate may leach to groundwater”.