There needs to be broad acceptance and adherence to closed slurry periods under the nitrates action programme (NAP), according to David Flynn of the Department of Housing.

Flynn is a principal adviser in the water division and was speaking at an Oireachtas committee on agriculture meeting on nitrates this week.

“When we say that storage will need to be put in place, storage needs to be put in place.

“When we have closed periods, we need broad acceptance and broad adherence to those closed periods or else we’ll be back here again at the next [NAP] review looking at this and looking to increase measures again,” he said.

Targeted measures

Senior inspector at the Department of Agriculture Jack Nolan said that as more information comes to light, more targeted measures will be needed on farms.

“Because certain parts of a field, never mind a farm or a parish, behave differently as regards soil type and there will be more [nutrient] losses there. These are called critical source areas.

“In the future, we will have to hone in more on those. We also know that if every farmer has a high stocking rate in a catchment, it makes it very difficult for water quality to thrive,” he said.

Nolan said that implementation of the measures proposed for the next NAP will get water quality going in the right direction.

However, he warned that the Department sees a “huge need for investment, particularly on dairy farms, to get better use of the nutrients that are produced”.