Earlier today, Teagasc launched five ‘factsheets’ advising farmers on how to improve and maintain water quality in and around their farms, to coincide with Teagasc Water Quality Week.

One of these five factsheets deals with organic fertiliser management, with the research authority saying: “Good management when applying fertiliser to grassland is recommended to maximise grass growth, while at the same time minimising nutrient and gaseous losses to water and the atmosphere.”

Teagasc highlights that slurry; farmyard manure (FYM); spent mushroom compost; and poultry litter, while being valuable resources for farmers, can damage the environment if not applied correctly.

Organic fertiliser should be applied in accordance with a nutrient management plan, Teagasc says. This is to ensure that organic manures are targeted at fields that have sub-optimal fertility. Proper use of organic manures can also help reduce chemical fertiliser requirements.

The benefits of optimising organic fertiliser usage, according to Teagasc, are:

  • Reducing the risk of diffuse loss of nutrients to water;
  • Helping address soil fertility deficits on the farm;
  • Helping reduce the overall chemical fertiliser bill;
  • Matching nutrient applications to grass growth rates;
  • Helping maximize grass production on the farm.

Outlining the advice for improving farmyard manure and slurry management, the factsheet urges farmers to ensure that organic manure storage capacity is sufficient to meet requirements.

Ideally, there should be a buffer zone of two to four weeks additional storage. This is to help to reduce the need to empty tanks in poor weather and ground conditions.

Farmers are advised to prepare and implement a nutrient management plan to ensure nutrients are targeted to where they are needed most.

Slurry should be applied in spring where ground conditions are suitable and soil temperature is consistently greater than 6°.Organic manure application rates must match grass growth rates to maximise nutrient uptake.

Farmers should apply a 5m buffer zone from drains and watercourses when spreading organic fertilisers. This should be increased to 10m if spreading in January or October.

The factsheet, which is available through the Teagasc website, contains further information in relation to the water quality risks to look out for when spreading organic fertiliser; as well as advice on low-emission slurry-spreading (LESS) equipment.