At the moment, there is a growing fear among farmers that steps could be taken to ban traditional splash-plate slurry spreading systems in the future.
In order for Ireland to meet its ammonia emissions targets by 2030, Teagasc believes that 50% of the slurry spread in the country will have to be applied using trailing shoe systems.
Ammonia emissions would be reduced by 5.1%, compared to levels witnessed in 2005 - if the utilisation of trailing shoes reached the above levels, Teagasc added.
The move towards trailing shoes would cost in the region of €35.6 million every year, Teagasc outlined in its submission to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) on the National Clean Air Strategy.
Are trailing shoe spreading systems the way forward?
Are trailing shoes the way forward? Or will unconventional forms of slurry spreading escape the proposed splash-plate ban?
The splash-plate system is not the best way for farmers to utilise their slurry, admits Castle Agri's Dermot Tobin.
However, Tobin – who is a distributor of the Moscha Swivel Spout – believes that the answer to Ireland's ammonia emissions targets does not solely lie with trailing shoes.
A balance between unconventional methods of slurry spreading and other low-emission spreading techniques must be struck, in order to benefit the environment as a whole, according to Tobin.
"If we need to reduce emissions on slurry spreading nationally, then we must have a system that can do this – which is affordable and available to all farmers.
If everyone turns towards injecting slurry directly into the ground, it could cause a lot of groundwater pollution. This problem will be worsened if the slurry is injected into bare ground.
"People are trying to come up with a solution for one problem, without thinking of the repercussions it will have in other areas," he said.
Tobin agrees that the splash-plate system will not be sufficient to meet Ireland's ammonia emissions targets and that it is not making the most of a valuable resource for farmers.
Moscha Swivel Spout
The Moscha Swivel Spout slurry spreading unit should escape any proposed splash-plate ban. The spout is a totally different system to the splash-plate, Tobin said.
"It took 13 years to design, develop and perfect. The science behind it is that you create very large droplets of slurry, where the nitrogen/ammonia is encapsulated in the droplet and does not get lost in the atmosphere.
"It comes down on the ground, thus utilising the nitrates value of the slurry; this means more nitrates are available for grass growth. There is also very little smell and pollution to the atmosphere," Tobin added.
Developed by a German farmer, the bolt-on attachment can be fitted to the back of any slurry tanker – without any modifications needed to be carried out on the tanker, he said.
A range of different-size units are offered; each with a different bore diameter to suit different sizes and capacities of slurry tankers.
According to Tobin, the speed at which slurry leaves the tanker is reduced when the spout is used. Slurry leaves a conventional tanker, using a splash-plate system, at a rate of 42kph; this is reduced to 29kph when a tanker is equipped with a swivel spout.
Benefits of the spout
On a tanker using a splash-plate, the slurry exits the tanker in a mist-like form. This reduces its capabilities of retaining ammonia, he explained.
Meanwhile, Tobin claims that there is less evidence of grass contamination, less smearing and faster re-growth when the swivel spout system is used.
By working across a width of between 12m and 18m, tankers equipped with the spouts don't burn lines in the ground. Intensively injecting slurry directly into smaller areas of soil cannot be good for the environment as a whole, he said.
The ability to set the working width of these attachments is another huge benefit to farmers and contractors, he added.
Cost to the farmer and the environment
Tobin argues that it is going to cost farmers a lot more money to get their slurry spread with trailing shoes.
As farmers, we must always keep an eye on the cost of production. It will cost at least 50% more per hour to spread slurry with the trailing shoe.
"It also takes 30-40% longer. When all this is added up, this will double the cost of spreading slurry to the farmer," he said.
In order to work a trailing shoe effectively, contractors have told Tobin they need a tractor that is up to 80hp more than what would be needed to work the swivel spout.
"Due to the fact that the tractor would be working 30-40% longer to get the job done, I would like to know who is measuring or calculating the extra emissions produced by the engine to do the same job.
"We need to look at the bigger picture and take all these things into account," he said.
'A balance must be struck'
Ideally, a balance must be struck between the different types of slurry spreading systems used across the country. A system which is used in one area, might not work as well as in a different area, Tobin warned.
Farmers and contractors who invest in trailing shoe or dribble bar systems may run into trouble on hilly ground or early in the year when the ground is wet. Meanwhile, the spread quality of the swivel spout is 100% accurate; it has been calibrated using fertiliser trays, he added.
There is one disadvantage to the swivel spout; its spreading pattern can be affected by the wind.
"But I have farmers and contractors all over the country who swear by them; even contractors, who previously had trailing shoe systems," he said.
The price of a Moscha Swivel Spout ranges from €975 plus VAT for a unit with a 68mm diameter to €1,125 plus VAT for a unit with an 85mm diameter.
However, the most common attachment that Tobin sells is the unit with a 77mm diameter; this retails at €1,025 plus VAT. To date, Castle Agri has 570 units sold, Tobin concluded.