Nitrates Review: Liming programme compulsory under derogation

Farmers wishing to avail of a nitrates derogation from next year onward will have to adopt a farm-scale liming programme, according to recommendations put forward by the nitrates expert group following a review of the nitrates derogation.

Under the recommendations – which include major changes for slurry spreading on derogation farms – the group proposes:

“Compulsory adoption of a farm-scale liming programme on derogation farms and on all farms with a stocking rate above 170kg N/ha.”

Both Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, and Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, have welcomed the recommendations of the review group and will move to bring these into force this autumn, to be implemented in 2020.

In addition, the expert group had its say on commonage and rough grazing, with the following measure:

Commonage / rough grazing will not be eligible for derogation in 2020 and cannot be included for the calculation of the chemical fertiliser allowance for the holding.

“As a consequence, this will reduce the chemical fertiliser allowance on marginal lands and reduce the risk of losses to the environment.”

Also, according to the recommendations, all farms must submit export forms for slurry movements earlier each calendar year to facilitate timely nutrient management planning.

Finally, on the biodiversity front, it is proposed that derogation farmers implement the measures in the All Island Pollinator Plan.

The review group recommends the adoption of a biodiversity measure on derogation farms.

Mooted measures post-2021

It was noted that all elements of submissions to the group could not be advanced at this stage; however, such proposals could be reviewed for the next Nitrates Action Programme (NAP), which will be due for consideration by the European Commission at the end of 2021.

Measures the group feels need to be considered further include:
  • Ongoing research in fertiliser formulation provides an opportunity for both environmental and climate benefit. The use of inhibitor technology to reduce the losses from fertilisers provides a significant environmental and climate opportunity. This should be reviewed further as part of the next NAP.
  • There are environmental pressures at a catchment scale which can be attributed to intensification of agriculture. Intensively stocked dairy grazing platforms need further review in the context of the next NAP.
  • 65% of the bovine livestock in the country are on farms at stocking rates > 130 kg/ha. The review group do not consider this group to be intensive; however, the next NAP review should examine opportunities for this cohort to reduce their environmental footprint and contribute to the climate and water challenges.
  • Measures to support improved biodiversity on all farms.

In addition, the commission has requested Ireland to review some of the technical aspects of the NAP, which will be incorporated into the next programme.