A review of Ireland’s 2nd Nitrates Action Programme has concluded and a revised third programme has been finalised, according to an announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, and the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan this morning.

The revised third programme contains numerous changes on the previous action plan and it will run until the end of 2017. Of note it includes a comprehensive review of phosphorus requirements for grassland production. Increases in phosphorus application have been provided for in certain cases where the Expert Group conduction the review was satisfied that these were justified and the evidence indicated that there would be efficient use and targeted application.

The definition of ‘soiled water’ has been changed, so as to bring clarity for dairy farmers in relation to dairy washing.

There is a new provision, which involves the maintenance of a 2m uncultivated and unsown zone alongside all surface waters of Ireland, for tillage crops, excluding grassland establishment.

The much-maligned prohibited periods for the spreading of organic fertiliser are to remain unchanged. This is in light of the evidence emerging from Teagasc’s initial report on the Agricultural Catchments Programme.

However the revised action plan will allow, an increased set back distance from surface waters for the application of organic manures (from five meters to 10 meters) is being introduced during the two weeks preceding and the two weeks following the prohibited periods.

The completed package of measures will now clear the way for the EU Nitrates Management Committee to vote on Ireland’s request for a renewal of its derogation under the Nitrates Directive.

The derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate subject to adherence to stricter rules, is scheduled for a vote on 5 February 2014. Once a successful vote is secured, the derogation will be incorporated into the Action Programme.

Minister Hogan stated that: “The new Action Programme will support the environmentally progressive outcomes achieved under the first two Programmes and will continue to secure consistency with the EU Nitrates Directive.

“We have seen an improvement in water quality in the last number of years and it is important that we build on this over the next period”, Minister Hogan added.

According to Minister Coveney: “The overall package will assist Ireland’s agri-food sector in working towards its targets under Food Harvest 2020, in a sustainable manner”, and he added, “In particular, this package paves the way for a formal vote on Ireland’s derogation in the coming weeks”.

Summary of changes to Nitrates Action Programme

The Programme
  • Applies to all livestock manure movements in the State
  • Provides basic set of measures to ameliorate any potential nutrient losses due to FH2020
  • Amends Table 13 (grassland phosphorus allowance) following recalculation of P requirement for grazing and silage as follows:
    • Increased P limits for grassland stocking rates greater than 85kgs
    • Reduced P limits for grassland stocking rates of less than 85kgs
  • First 300kgs concentrate used per dairy cow (or each 85kg livestock manure N equivalent) discounted when calculating P allowances
  • Reduces availability of P in organic fertilisers to 50% when applied to Index 1 and 2 soils (subject to soil testing)
  • Provides an annual P allowance on maize crops grown on Index 4 soils as provided for other selected tillage crops (20kgs per ha, subject to soil testing)
  • Allows 20kg per ha of P on Index 4 soils used for cereal crops where the soil pH is greater than 7 (subject to soil testing)
  • Reduces the assumed P concentration in SMC from 2.5kg t-1 to 1.5kg t-1
  • Allowance for lowly stocked farms (<85kgs/ha) to use P allowances in Table 15 for silage/hay sold off the farm
Soil testing requirements The period for which a soil sample remains valid is reduced  from 6 years to 5 on non-derogation farms
Uncultivated zone near surface waters A 2m uncultivated and unsown zone alongside all surface waters  identified on the 6” OSI maps (1:10560) of Ireland for tillage crops, excluding grassland establishment.
Set back distances from water courses
  • Supplementary feeding points must be located at least 20m from waters and not on bare rock
  • The distance from which farmyard manure can be stored near waters is increased from 10m to 20m.
  • Removal of provision for reduced buffer strips (Art. 17(13))
Prohibited periods for the spreading of organic fertiliser
  • No change to prohibited periods
  • Setback distances from surface waters for the spreading of organic fertiliser in Art. 17(2)(f) of the Regulations is increased  from 5m to 10m for the two weeks preceding and subsequent to the prohibited period.
Soiled Water
  • Definition amended to give legal clarity
  • Storage capacity increased from 10 to 15 days for newly constructed soiled water tanks (from 1 January 2015)
Control of grass weeds in specific cereal crops Removal of requirement to establish green cover following  non-selective herbicide use after 15 October on 25% of the land harvested for specific cereals where pre harvest control is prohibited (i.e. cereal crops grown for malting, seed or human consumption)
Nitrogen Applications limits Increased N rate on winter barley and spring wheat by 20kg/ha across all indices consistent with similar adjustments previously made to other crops.Corrects the rate of N permitted for top-dressing broccoli from 20kg ha-1 to 120kg ha-1.
Amendments to specific Regulations Article 3 amended by updating the definition or organic fertiliser to include reference to SMCArticle 13(1)(c) amended to reflect updated position and reference to the Waste Management Act replaced by reference to the European Communities (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and Animal By Products) Regulations 2008Regulation 23(1) (g) amended to state that records of livestock manure and other organic fertilisers moved on or off a farm will be in a format as specified by DAFM.Article 23(4) amended to include Local Authorities as a body who may request information in relation to the movement of organic fertiliserArticle 26(4) amended to refer to a “summary prosecution”.Article 27 requires assessment of storage capacity in light of expected animal numbers in FH2020 report