The level of penalties on farmers who exceed the phosphorous allowance levels for their holding will depend on the “severity of the breach” of regulations, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.

Minister McConalogue urged farmers to carry out soil sampling of their lands before purchasing fertiliser, so that land owners can avoid inadvertently falling foul of regulations governing good agricultural practice (GAP) and water protection rules.

The Minister was responding to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Deputy Claire Kerrane, who asked if farmers would be penalised for spreading fertiliser compounds which include phosphorous.


“Exceeding fertilisation limits for agricultural soils represents a breach of the GAP regulations and presents risks to water quality. In the case of direct payment applicants, this may lead to a sanction being applied to the farmer's CAP payments as appropriate. The scale of the sanction will be determined by the extent and severity of the breach,” Minister McConalogue said.

“To reduce the risk of the loss of nutrients to water and to maximise economic sustainability, farmers purchasing fertiliser should only buy products that meet their soil and crops' nutritional requirements.

"These purchasing decisions should be informed by soil analysis and engagement of a farm advisory system-accredited agricultural adviser where appropriate,” he added.

“Since January 2023, all arable land and holdings with a grassland stocking rate greater than 130kg nitrogen per hectare in the previous year must be subject to soil analysis, including an assessment of the soil's phosphorous content,” the Minister pointed out.

“In the absence of a valid soil test, such land is assumed to be at soil phosphorous index 4. With some limited exceptions, this prohibits the application of chemical and/or imported organic phosphorous to these soils,” he explained.


“For non-arable land and land stocked at less than 130kg nitrogen per hectare in the previous year, soil phosphorus analysis is not mandatory.

"On this land, a soil phosphorous index of 3 is assumed in the absence of a valid soil sample. This allows maintenance levels of phosphorous to be applied,” Minister McConalogue said.

Deputy Kerrane said greater clarity and improved communication to farmers on this issue is required from Minister McConalogue and the Department of Agriculture.

Last week, the Agricultural Consultants Association warned of the potential for an avalanche of direct payment penalties because so many farms were likely to exceed their phosphorous allowance.