The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, announced on Wednesday that 2021 Nitrates derogation applications can now be submitted online using the Department’s agfood.ie facility.
The derogation is a vital tool allowing intensively stocked farmers to exceed the standard organic nitrogen limit of 170kg/ha and farm to a higher limit of 250kg/ha organic nitrogen, with almost 6,500 farmers availing of it in 2020.
Reports suggest this figure could possibly increase in 2021, following the introduction of tighter sanctions and farming practices for in excess of 5,000 more intensively stocked farmers, operating above the standard organic nitrogen limit but remaining outside of the derogation by means of exporting slurry.
I would encourage more intensively stocked farmers to engage early with this application process and discuss the need for a derogation with their agricultural advisor
Agri-advisers comment that some of these farmers are assessing if it makes more sense to continue to operate as is, or to avail of the derogation.
This assessment is being encouraged by the Department, with Minister McConalogue advising: “I would encourage more intensively stocked farmers to engage early with this application process and discuss the need for a derogation with their agricultural advisor.”
A main component of availing of the Nitrates derogation is the development of a nutrient management plan and the submission of fertiliser accounts for the previous year. The plan must be in place on the holding by 1 March and be submitted to the Department, along with the application, unless a fertiliser plan has been submitted in 2018, 2019 or 2020.
Fertiliser plans must also contain up-to-date soil sample analysis, with plans now based on soil analysis results dated after 15 September 2017.
New applicants who do not have soil analysis results must assume Index 3 levels for 2021, but soil sample analysis in respect of the 2020 crop year must be available, along with the plan being amended accordingly and resubmitted before 31 March 2022.
Fertiliser accounts must also be submitted to the Department for the previous year, no later than 31 March of the following year – i.e. accounts for 2020 must be submitted by 31 March 2021 for those availing of a derogation in 2020.
There are additional conditions farmers availing of a Nitrates derogation must abide by, some of which were introduced in 2020 following a mid-term review of the Nitrates Action Plan.
The Department says the introduction of more stringent conditions was necessary to protect the environment and meet the requirements of the Nitrates directive, with a particular focus on protecting water quality.
Farmers should also note another change made to the Nitrates Action Programme, with the nitrogen excretion rate for dairy cows increasing from 85kg organic nitrogen per annum to 89kg
This year is shaping up to be an important one for the derogation, with a full review of the Nitrates Action Plan currently taking place. Farmers should also note another change made to the Nitrates Action Programme, with the nitrogen excretion rate for dairy cows increasing from 85kg organic nitrogen per annum to 89kg organic nitrogen as of 1 January 2021.
The important conditions to consider with the derogation are outlined as follows:
Derogation information, including terms and conditions and frequently asked questions, is available at www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9563-rural-environment-sustainability-nitrates/#nitrates-derogation.
Teagasc has launched a new online slurry spreader calibration calculator to help the large number of farmers who are now required to apply slurry using low emission slurry spreading technologies. Teagasc explains that the online calibration calculator will work with all types of slurry tankers. It says that in many cases, the forward speed of the tractor will need to be increased considerably to maintain the same application rate as the splash plate method, for example. The calculator is designed to take out the guess work and is available on the Teagasc website.