Farmers urged not to delay spreading slurry this autumn

Farmers have been urged by Teagasc not to delay spreading the remainder of their slurry this autumn.

The nitrogen (N) in slurry spread in September can have a higher impact on grass growth. As grass growth reduces from September onwards the capacity to take up N reduces steadily, the agricultural authority notes.

Any N not used by grass is susceptible to leaching when autumn and winter rains come – particularly in free-draining soils.

Offering a range of good practice tips for farmers this autumn, Teagasc advises to look at your grass covers and identify if your farm has a sufficient supply of grass.

Farmers should identify paddocks that are likely to respond to additional N based on soil conditions, grass covers and soil fertility.

At this point no more than 20kg of N/ha is justified. In situations where there are significant grass covers and moderate to low stocking rate, it’s likely that no chemical fertiliser is required.

Teagasc also highlighted that the last date for spreading chemical N and phosphorous (P) is midnight on Monday, September 14.

Farmers are advised to apply remaining slurry as soon as possible using low emissions slurry equipment where available.

This will lead to:
  • Good uptake of the N in slurry by the plant and avoiding losses to water from late applications;
  • Avoiding the risk of not being able to empty tanks if weather conditions worsen;
  • Being able to save money by getting effective use of slurry nutrients; and
  • Having empty tanks to protect your storage capacity for the spring.

Pat Murphy, head of the Teagasc Environment Knowledge Transfer Department, said:

“Grass growth rates are currently strong, and existing grass covers are generally high, so there is an opportunity on most farms to save on chemical fertiliser.

We would urge farmers to instead focus on earlier spreading of the remainder of slurry.

Reducing nitrate loss to water is an essential part of protecting our environment and farm income, the agricultural authority concluded.