A key way for farmers to protect water quality in their local areas is to ensure that one is spreading fertiliser in the right place, at the right time and in the correct quantity, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said.

The association says that Rural Water Week is an “important recognition of the good work being undertaken” by over 400 community-owned group water schemes (GWS) around Ireland.

Commenting, IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Committee chairman and Smart Farming’s Programme leader, Paul O’Brien said:

“As custodians of their environment, farmers are acutely aware of their responsibility to protect water quality.

“Programmes such as Smart Farming and the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) work with farmers to ensure that measures adopted at farm level improve and protect water quality,” he said.

He said one of the key actions for farmers to protect water quality is to ensure that the right fertiliser is applied at right time, at the right rate, in the right place on the farm.

“Proper timing increases yields; reduces nutrient losses; increases nutrient use efficiency; and prevents damage to the environment,” O’Brien stressed.

“Improving nitrogen use efficiency will save farmers money on input costs while benefiting water and air quality.”

He said the deadline for spreading chemical nitrogen and phosphorus is next Tuesday, September 14.

Farmers that need to apply fertiliser can benefit from the higher soil temperatures at the moment, he added.

The closed period will remain in place until January 12, in the southeast; January 15, in the midlands and west; and January 31, in northern counties. Smart Farming programme guidance on water management can be found here.