The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has welcomed the Department of Agriculture’s new scientific slurry spreading extension guidelines, which it says are based on the Moorepark St Gilles grass growth model.

The FCI said these guidelines have the “potential to allow for slurry spreading on farms at dates later than the new earlier closing deadlines of 8 October 2022 and 1 October 2023”.

The association said the bringing forward of the slurry spreading closed period by one week to 8 October this year will reduce the working year for farm contractors who provide slurry spreading service.

However, it noted that the adoption of scientific criteria over calendar dates in assessing conditions for slurry spreading exemptions during the closed period is welcome.

Scientific approach

The FCI described how it has campaigned for changes to the existing calendar-based closed system for slurry spreading, seeking the adoption of a more scientific approach based on grass growth and weather factors.

It said such factors have been proven to enhance the ability of nutrient uptake.

The Moorepark St Gilles grass growth model will measure if there is sufficient grass growth for nutrient uptake, when no heavy rain is forecast. Its measurements include a nitrogen (N) component and a soil water component.

The model is effective in grazing and cutting scenarios, weather data, grazing management decisions and N fertiliser application. Outputs include daily grass growth, soil mineral N content, grass N uptake, grass N content and NO3- leaching.

Slurry storage

The FCI has also called for greater funding for slurry storage to allow the movement of more animal slurry for storage on tillage farms.

“This would enhance the use of slurry as a replacement fertiliser with additional organic matter benefits,” said FCI national chair John Hughes.

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