With just over two weeks to go until the spreading of slurry becomes prohibited, repeated calls have been made for the deadline to be extended.

The poor weather conditions experienced over the last number of weeks has limited opportunities for spreading slurry. Unsettled conditions are set to continue this weekend, but there is a dry spell forecast for early next week.

The decision to extend the deadline for slurry spreading, which is scheduled for October 15, lies with the Department for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

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In a statement released to AgriLand, the department highlighted that the objective of nitrates regulations is to protect groundwater and surface waters – including drinking water sources – primarily through the management of livestock manures and other fertilisers.

Ireland is obligated under the Water Framework Directive to protect and improve the quality of its natural waters and it is important to demonstrate that this can be achieved while enabling a sustainable agricultural sector, the department added.

Both the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, along with their respective departments work closely together in this regard.

As part of the Nitrates Directive, all member states are required to define set periods when the land application of fertiliser is not allowed.

Findings from the Agricultural Catchments Programme (ACP) operated by Teagasc support the current closed periods in Ireland, according to the department.

Nutrient losses

“A key message from the research is that there are disproportionately high nutrient losses to waters from agriculture during the winter. The current closed period coincides with the time during which risks of incidental nutrient losses to water are highest.

“The closed season in Ireland commences from Sunday, October 15. The closed periods were decided following extensive public consultation and were discussed with farming bodies and the European Commission at the time.

“The NAP was reviewed in 2010 and 2013. The third review of the NAP is due to be completed by the end of this year and we are now at a critical juncture in the context of those negotiations with the European Commission,” the department’s statement added.

Meanwhile, a major priority for Ireland is the renewal of the Nitrates Derogation – which allows more intensive farms to operate at higher stocking rates, according to the department. The Nitrates Derogation is due to expire at the end of this year.

With just over two weeks to go until the closed period begins, the department believes it is “premature to consider any actions outside this agreed framework”.

However, it was confirmed that the situation would be kept under review by both departments.