Matters seem to have settled within the fertiliser industry regarding the availability of protected urea this year.

AgriLand gave the story its rightful prominence a few weeks ago. So, let’s get back to the crux of the matter.

I love a bit of straightforward advice – nothing complicated, just a clear message that gets to the very heart of the matter.

Protected urea is the future

Imagine my joy upon receiving a press release from Teagasc a couple of months ago, confirming that the most effective way for Irish agriculture to meet its future ammonia emissions target comprises a two-step-process: Switch from traditional chemical fertilisers to protected urea; and stop the spreading of slurry with a splash plate.

It seems that the full adoption of these measures will get us 80% of the way in terms of the farming industry meeting the current ammonia challenge.

So, at long last, we are getting some tangible advice on how farmers can best meet their environmental protection obligations moving forward.

Slurry spreading

No doubt commercial pressures will come to bear when it comes to sorting out the protected urea issue. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to slurry spreading.

The reality is that many farmers still have a slurry tanker with a traditional splash plate attached.

The only way to get real movement here is for the relevant authorities to step in and ban – outright – the use of splash plates. The reality is that a host of low emission slurry spreading systems (LESS) are available.

These include trailing shoes and shallow injection systems. No end of research has been carried out using these technologies.

All of the work has confirmed that they act to both reduce the environmental footprint of a farming business, while also enhancing the fertiliser value of the slurry being spread.

This is a win-win scenario, and their universal application seems like an absolute no-brainer to me.

Criteria for schemes

If a ban on splash plates is deemed to be the wrong approach to take, then the other option is to exclude farmers from the various quality assurance schemes if they cannot provide evidence to the effect that they are using low-emission slurry spreading systems.

It goes without saying that more research is needed to deliver a sustainable future for Irish farmers, one which balances their need to produce food and to care for our environment in equal measure.

The island of Ireland is home to two ‘world class’ agri research organisations: Teagasc and AFBI. It behooves both organisations to collaborate more closely on a raft of issues that impact equally on all Irish farmers. Environmental sustainability is one of these all-embracing issues.