The key changes in the Third Nitrate Action Programme (NAP3)were outlined this week by Jack Nolan of the Department of Agriculture, who spoke at the Fertiliser Association of Ireland Spring meeting.

According to Nolan, key highlights from the previous action programme includes the fact that water quality is generally stable or improving in Ireland, there has been a large investment in farm facilities, the Agricultural Catchments Programme has been put in place and finally N and P limits have been set.

Looking at the new programme, which will run until the end of 2017, Nolan said a review process was undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency. It incorporated a comprehensive public consultation process that commenced in May 2013.

He said 30 submissions were received from a wide range of stakeholders. A jointly chaired Department Environment and the Department of Agriculture Expert Review Group was convened to consider all submissions received during public consultation and make recommendations on any changes to the programme.

The new programme will have three main aims, stated Nolan. Including maintaining and supporting progress already made, that the NAP3 regime should be designed to operate as efficiently as possible, with reference to Food Harvest 2020 sustainable farming practices, and that incremental improvements to the existing NAP will build on the considerable achievements made to date and contribute to the delivery of water framework directive objectives.

The first key change outlined by Nolan in the new programme was increases in phosphorus application have been provided for in certain cases where the expert group was satisfied that these were justified and the evidence indicated that there would be efficient use and targeted application.

He cited the new programme includes increased P limits for grassland stocking rates greater than 85kgs and reduced P limits for grassland stocking rates of less than 85kgs. He also noted there is an allowance for lowly stocked farms (<85kgs/ha) to use P allowances for silage/hay sold off the farm.

Another key change, he outlined, was the period for which a soil sample remains valid is reduced from six years to five on non-derogation farms. Also a two metre uncultivated and unsown zone must be maintained alongside all surface waters identified on the six-inch OSI maps of Ireland for tillage crops, excluding grassland establishment.

Other changes include any Supplementary feeding points must be located at least 20 metre from waters and not on bare rock, The distance from which farmyard manure can be stored near waters is increased from 10m to 20m and Removal of provision for reduced buffer strips.

He noted the definition of soiled water has been amended to give legal clarity for dairy farmers in relation to dairy washing. Storage capacity of soiled water has also been increased from 10 to 15 days for newly constructed soiled water tanks.

He said the new programme will see the removal of requirement to establish green cover following non-selective herbicide use after 15 October on 25 per cent of the land harvested for specific cereals where pre harvest control is prohibited, ie cereal crops grown for malting, seed or human consumption.

Finally he outlined that an increased N rate on winter barley and spring wheat by 20kg/ha has been included across all indices consistent with similar adjustments previously made to other crops. Also Broccoli, topdressing allowance increased by 100kgs/ha.