As the open season for the spreading of organic manure begins in less than two weeks’ time on February 1, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is urging farmers to be aware of, and to follow, slurry spreading rules.

From February 1, it will be possible to spread slurry and manure on land. However, the department said to avoid spreading if the ground is frozen, water-logged or heavy rain is forecast.

DAERA is urging farmers and contractors to also be aware of the rules for spreading slurry during February when there is an increase in the width of buffer zones required along waterways and a reduction in the maximum application rates allowed.

Buffer zones in February:

  • 15m from a waterway (increased from 10m);
  • 30m from a lake (increased from 20m);
  • 5m from a waterway (increased from 3m) if low emission slurry spreading equipment (LESSE) is used.

The maximum volume of slurry which can be spread per hectare in one application is reduced from 50m3 (4500 gallons) to 30m3 (2750gallons).

Buffer zone and maximum application rate requirements will revert back to the original distances and volumes from March 1, onwards until October 1. The increased buffer zones will then apply again until the October 15.

The department has said that slurries and manures are a valuable source of nutrients for plant growth and if used efficiently, can reduce the need for artificial fertilisers.

However, farmers must remember they have a responsibility to protect water quality when spreading slurry or manure and should avoid spreading slurry in sub-optimal ground conditions, DAERA warned.