Modifications have been made to the specifications of the TAMS II tillage scheme with various sections updated.

These amendments will free up some areas of the specifications that were viewed as overly restrictive.

IFA Grain Committee Vice-Chair George Mason confirmed the changes, saying that while amendments were being made the whole time, the specifications had been tweaked in particular over the Easter period and the following week.

The documentation had been taken down from the Department website and revised during this time.

Mason said that the specifications on disc harrows and drills had been changed, leading to the permissible under-beam clearance being reduced from 750mm to 450mm.

Mason stressed that the scheme will be running for another three and a half years until 2020, and it will not all be going in one shot, so farmers need not be anxious about securing grants straight away for this year. 

He also noted that to be eligible farmers have to buy the machine in question; they cannot lease the equipment.

Fertiliser spreaders

One of the more significant modifications made is the eligibility of fertiliser spreaders for TAMS approval where, under the previous specifications, only GPS technology for spreaders was eligible.

Under the new specifications, any spreader that has the capability to change the width of spread will be covered, as well as the previously-eligible GPS accompaniments aimed at avoiding overlaps during spreading.

The weigh-cell requirement for spreaders has been dropped under the new specs. This will allow eligibility of several existing spreaders which, while they do not have weigh-cells, can be equipped with GPS and have the capacity to vary the spreading width.

Farm machinery company Atkins, which distributes Bogballe and Bredal spreaders, has welcomed the changes.

It was noted that the modifications are somewhat late for this year, given that the busy time of year has passed for fertiliser spreaders. But it should give farmers a chance to get the finances and plans together to invest for 2018.

"The changes are welcome as long as they are focused on the right machines," an Atkins spokesman said.

Other changes made to the scheme specifications are the new eligibility of factory-installed GPS apparatus on new tractors and combines, and modifications to sprayer requirements.

The modifications were reportedly added after "extensive discussions" between officials from the Department of Agriculture and IFA delegates.

It should be noted that there is no official list of approved equipment as of yet, so farmers should check that any equipment they invest in is eligible under TAMS - prior to purchase. No purchase can be finalised prior to grant approval.