As hedge-cutting starts up once more across the Irish countryside, farmers who avail of the Nitrates Derogation should take heed that, under the most recent rules, certain commitments apply.

Under new measures first introduced with the 2020 nitrates derogation, biodiversity was among the detailed conditions outlined.

Under the biodiversity heading, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) highlighted that all farmers in derogation must adopt at least one measure from a list of actions from the All Ireland Pollinator Plan.

This list comprises the following:

  • Leave at least one mature Whitethorn/Blackthorn tree within each hedgerow;
  • Hedgerows shall be maintained on a minimum three-year cutting cycle;
  • Cut in rotation rather than all at once as this will ensure some areas of hedgerow on your farm will always flower.

This is among a number of measures which derogation farmers have to currently undertake.

Other measures include: adopting a farm-scale liming programme; using low emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment; reducing the crude protein in concentrate feed for grazing livestock to a maximum of 16%; and incorporate clover into newly reseeded swards.

Participant farmers must also exclude commonage/rough grazing from the derogation allowance of 250kg nitrogen/ha.

In addition, derogation farmers must participate in grassland management requirements including grass measuring and annual grass production recording.

For participant farmers who hadn’t the required skills to undertake this measure, they must participate in grassland management training – which must be completed by the end of this year.

In the region of 7.000 farms participate in the nitrates derogation annually.