Nitrogen efficiency under the spotlight at first virtual dairy conference event

The efficient use of fertiliser nitrogen to improve sustainability was the topic of discussion at the first of four online events as part of this year’s Teagasc Virtual Dairy Conference.

A new report called ‘Review of the Influence of Nitrogen Application Rate, Soil Type and Agroclimate Location on Grass Production, Feed Budget, Nitrogen Use Efficiency and Farm Profitability’ was published by Teagasc today (Tuesday, November 24) in tandem with the conference.

At the online even this morning, Jack Nolan from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine outlined the policy drivers including the EU Green Deal and the EU Farm to Fork strategy which will influence Irish dairy farming.

He challenged farmers to reduce fertiliser nitrogen usage by “half bag of urea or a bag of CAN” per annum.

Laurence Shalloo from Teagasc Moorepark said: “We have to embrace the challenge and adopt the technologies which will allow us to replace fertiliser nitrogen in our grass-based systems.”

These technologies, he said, include:
  • Increase the efficiency of the fertiliser N used;
  • Improve the precision of our grassland management;
  • Get soil nutrients right;
  • Target 20 – 25% clover in our grass swards;
  • Use low emissions slurry spreading technology;
  • Use protected urea;
  • Reduce the crude protein content of grazing concentrates to 15%.

Meanwhile, Elodie Ruelle, researcher at Teagasc Moorepark advised farmers of the importance of having a fertilizer plan for the whole farm.

She said: ”Know your farm and your soils. Know which paddocks will produce valuable grass in the spring. Have a nitrogen fertiliser plan, but be flexible depending on the weather.”

Finally, Owen Fenton from Teagasc Johnstown Castle said:

What we have done in the past is affecting water quality now. What we are doing now will impact on water quality in the future.

“So we are entering a transition phase which requires a time lag, and a collective effort to improve estuarine water quality.”