The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has claimed that a new nitrates derogation condition is causing “significant concern” for farmers.

Under the terms and conditions for the 2022 scheme, farmers in derogation who wish to plough grassland must do so between March 1 and May 31.

It adds that ploughed grass on all soil types shall be followed by a crop with high nitrogen (N) demand immediately and no later than three weeks after ploughing.

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However, the IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Committee chair Paul O’Brien said that the new condition is “an ill-thought out move that has been poorly communicated and needs to be reviewed”.

“This is a major change from the 2021 Nitrates Derogation where the condition only related to temporary grassland,” O’Brien explained.

He said that the change is causing significant concern to farmers, particularly in parts of the country where, due to soil type and weather conditions, it may not be possible to plough and reseed grassland within this timeframe.

The IFA Environment chair added that reseeding is an essential management tool not only to increase grass production, but also to encourage the uptake of clover and other multi-species swards.

“This is essential to reduce our long-term reliance on inorganic fertilisers.

“Reseeding by way of ploughing is also often necessary to better incorporate farmyard manure or ensure better new sward establishment.

“Options such as extending the date to later in the season have to be looked at,” the IFA chair said.

“Otherwise, we will end up discouraging farmers from adopting clover and multi-species grassland, which would be a hugely retrograde step,” O’Brien concluded.