The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said that “full compliance” is required in regards to spreading slurry in order to help reduce the loss of nutrients from agricultural land.

According to Minister Charlie McConalogue, the Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Waters (GAP) Regulations sets out the period when application of manures to land is prohibited.

However, during the open period where there are “unseasonably” wet periods nutrients must not be applied as the risk of nutrient loss is greater.

Research completed by Teagasc’s Agricultural Catchments Programme (ACP) validated the need for for closed periods after it identified that during the winter months, there was a significant loss of nutrients from agricultural land.

The nutrients from the agricultural land were found to be entering water sources, even when farmers were adhering to the closed period.

Minister McConalogue added:

“From an agricultural perspective, we need to all work together to reduce the loss of nutrients to water. Full compliance with the GAP Regulations must be a key element of this.”

In response to deputy Brian Stanley’s Parliamentary Question (PQ), McConalogue said the GAP Regulations state that organic/chemical fertilisers must not be applied if land is waterlogged, flooded or if heavy rain is forecast.

The minister added that the EPA Report ‘Water Quality in 2023 – An Indicators Report’ highlighted that the levels of nitrate and phosphorus (P) in Irish waters are “too high”.

‘8 Actions for Change’

Minister McConalogue said that ensuring application of fertiliser and organic manure at “appropriate” times and conditions is a key action in Teagasc’s ‘Better Farming for Water- 8 Actions for Change’.

The eight actions from Teagasc include:

  • Reduce purchased nitrogen (N) and phosphorus P surplus per hectare;
  • Ensure soil fertility is optimal for lime and potassium;
  • Ensure application of fertiliser and organic manure at appropriate times and conditions;
  • Have sufficient slurry and soiled water storage capacity;
  • Manage and minimise nutrient loss from farmyards and roadways;
  • Fence off watercourses to prevent bovine access;
  • Promote riparian margins, buffer strips and sediment traps to mitigate nutrient and loss to water;
  • Maintain over-winter green cover to reduce nutrient leaching from tillage soils.

Minister McConalogue advised that the ‘Better Farming for Water- 8 Actions for Change’ will further support farmers to make the “right decisions” and reduce nutrient losses.