Next government set to carry out ‘national liming programme’

The Programme for Government, revealed this week, outlines plans for a ‘national liming programme’ for the purpose of improving nitrogen use and efficiency.

The idea of such a liming programme comes under the ‘Land Use, Nutrient Management and Soil Health’ section of the agriculture chapter of the Programme for Government document.

The big focus in this section of the chapter appears to be on sustainability, with several measures outlined to deal with nutrient management, particularly where fertiliser is concerned.

Among these steps is an “incremental and ambitious” reduction in the use of inorganic nitrogen fertiliser through to 2030; and the publication of a ‘national soils strategy’ to assess “all appropriate soil health parameters”.

Among the other key points are included:

  • Reviewing the effects of the nitrates derogation on water quality in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
  • Working with nitrates derogation farmers to improve environmental outcomes on their farms, and “ensuring the sustainable use of the derogation”;
  • Encouraging farming practices which preserve or enhance soil organic matter;
  • Encouraging the use of protected nitrogen (urea) on grassland and greater take up of low emisions slurry spreading;
  • Improving nutrient management planning and investigating dry manure systems for housed livestock;
  • Encouraging better grassland management and supporting the use of clover and other mixed species in grass reseeding and the protection of older swards.

Within the first 100 days of the next government, a ‘roadmap’ will be published with specific targets and actions for the measures listed above.

“We understand the significant economic, biodiversity and environmental gains to be made from improving soil health and fertility, optimising fertiliser use and maximising our grass-based production system,” the Programme for Government says.

It adds: “We will work with farmers to improve standards of soil health and fertility and embark on a trajectory of reducing inorganic nitrogen fertiliser by 2030, without undermining farming opportunity.”

Land use review

The next government is also set to undertake a national land use review, including farmland, forests and peatlands.

The aim of the review will be to balance environmental, social and economic considerations, and will involve a process of evaluation of the “ecological characteristics” of the land.

“Co-benefits” – such as actions to mitigating flood risk – will also be considered.