A further 5% cut to chemical nitrogen application may be enforced following the public consultation of the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP), a Teagasc scientist has said.

Speaking at a Teagasc soil conference on Monday, Dr David Wall said it is his understanding the NAP will come up for public consultation soon.

“There’s provision in the NAP to reduce fertiliser use by a further 5%, depending on water quality trends.

“It’s my understanding that there’ll be a public consultation, and it’s quite likely that 5% will come under scrutiny and may be enforced in the near future,” he said.

Soil fertility

Wall added that as soil fertility is a key driver of nitrogen use efficiency, farmers need to focus on it ahead of potential cuts to their ability to spread nitrogen.

“Soil fertility management is the cornerstone of sustainable production.

“Policy signals lower maximum nitrogen available on farms in the future. We need to protect our family farm model by careful management of nitrogen and phosphorus.

“If we don’t do that, then our production potential will be eroded in terms of cutting stocking rate or further constraints on farmers through regulation,” he said.

In his presentation at the online conference, Wall said while soil fertility is not a “sexy” element of food production, farmers need to get back to basics and place more emphasis on it.