“This is the reality, this is the science, the directive is based on science” was the message from Jack Nolan from the Department of Agriculture who was speaking today at an ASA technical event on the Nitrates Directive.

According to Nolan: “Many were disappointed that the closed periods were not changed in the review of Nitrates regulations.”

He said: “The issue with calendar farming is clear. The directive clearly states a closed period is compulsory. The directive defines all products with nutrients in them as fertiliser including slurry and farm yard manure.”

“Last year was extremely dry up to the end of November. In November we had less than half the normal rainfall. We know it has been very awkward for people that may have had tanks full.”

“But if farmers spread that slurry in November, the grass grown in November will not take up all the nutrients spread. We all know the amount of rain that fell in December, It would have lead to pollution.”

“But the reason for the closed period is that on average during the closed period there is low growth. Grass is not growing, the water table is usually higher and rain will wash away nutrients. No one would advise farmers to spread nutrients at this time of the year.”

He stressed: “Research has shown that two thirds of nutrients are lost when spread during the closed period. Slurry is a valuable commodity on farms. Why waste it?”

Nolan remarked: When we brought this issue to the Commission, they said ‘fine we will give you flexibility if you go home and bring us back the science that says you can do this safely’. Our science has clearly shown this is not possible.”

He added: “Adequate storage is key. Irish framers have one of the lowest requirements for storage across Europe. Farmers with adequate storage are able to store their slurry and spread it in the spring when it is at it’s most valuable.”

Nolan was keen to stress: “Research has clearly shown that farmers get the more value for their nutrients outside the closed period.“