The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has outlined the terms and conditions for the Nitrates Derogation for 2022, with some small but important differences.

The terms and conditions document published recently on the department’s website is broadly the same as the corresponding document from last year.

There are, however, some points that farmers looking to obtain a derogation may want to watch out for.

Last year’s conditions noted that a farmer who failed to comply with the conditions would have their derogation removed and this would be considered in future applications. However, the 2022 conditions say outright that farmers who do not comply will not be eligible for the derogation in 2023.

In 2022, requests from farmers to withdraw from the derogation will be accommodated, provided that the farmer has not been notified of an inspection.

There is also a slight change to the date between which a farmer cannot exceed a crude protein content of 15% in concentrate feed for grazing livestock.

These dates have been shifted forward by 15 days. This year, concentrate feed cannot exceed this level of crude protein between April 15 and September 30; last year this period was between April 1 and September 15.

As in previous years, commonage land will not be eligible for the derogation. However, whereas the standard limit of 170kg of nitrogen (N) per hectare applied on commonage in the past, a new limit for these lands of 50kg N/ha will apply this year.

For new applicants to the derogation who do not have soil analysis results, they will be deemed to have a phosphorus (P) index of 4 on the Teagasc Soil Index System. In previous years, new applicants were deemed to have a P index of 3.

Having index figures for various soil elements are a requirement for the development of a nutrient management plan (NMP), which the farmer must draw up to avail of the derogation.

Soil analysis is performed once every four years for each homogenous area of the holding, with at least one analysis per 5ha of land.

In 2022, a farmer’s NMP shall be revised no later than seven days following any change in agricultural practices on grassland, including a soil analysis.

However, for farmers who are participating in the department’s Pilot Soil Sampling Programme, if soil results are obtained after March 15, there will not be a requirement to update the the 2022 NMP, provided that original soil samples used in the NMP are still valid.

In terms of slurry application dates, all slurry generated on the holding must be applied by October 8, this year. The requirement to apply 50% of slurry by June 15, remains.

Nitrates Derogation applicants who applied for the derogation in 2020 or 2021 must have completed all elements of a training programme in nutrient use efficiency and the protection of waters, under training guidelines issued in 2021.

New applicants or those who did not apply for the Nitrates Derogation in either of the last two years must complete this training programme by December 31, of this year.

On grass measurements, those farmers who recorded at least 20 grass measurements in 2021 must record at least 20 measurements in 2022 as well. Farmers who completed a grassland training course in 2021 will be required to get set up on appropriate software technology in 2022 to record grass measurements.

These farmers have two options here:

  • Record 20 grass measurements using the appropriate technology;
  • Or attend two workshops – one on using the software technology for recording measurements and one on grass measuring itself – and take at least three grass measurements in 2022.

For clover incorporation in the reseeding of swards, the exact amount of clover has been outlined in the 2022 terms and conditions.

All new grass reseeds on the grassland farm shall incorporate at least 1.5kg/ha of naked clover seed or at least 2.5kg/ha of pelleted clover.

There is also more detailed guidance issued on the farm liming programme.

The liming programme must be four years in duration with a minimum of 25% of lime spread in the first year, and the balance applied over the remaining three years, where necessary.

Any lime applied following soil sampling, but prior to the commencement of the liming programme, will be taken into account and can be deducted from the total liming requirement. Receipts for lime purchased and spread must be retained by the applicant and made available for inspection if required.

For farmers who wish to plough grassland, this can be done up to May 31, this year; the final date for this was April 30, in previous years and applied to temporary grassland.

Finally, when fulfilling the requirement to plant a crop with high nitrogen demand in ploughed grassland, this must be done no later than three weeks after the ploughing (terms and conditions in previous years did not outline such a time limit).