Farmers availing of a nitrates derogation have until 31 March 2021 to submit an up to date fertiliser plan and annual fertiliser accounts for the preceding year.

A large percentage of the figure of more than 6,500 farmers operating under a nitrates derogation are dairy enterprises.

The majority of these enterprises will be facing into a hectic schedule from the end of January onwards and, as such, delaying collating fertiliser accounts or updating the fertiliser plan is likely to add pressure where it is not needed.

Ideal time

The next few weeks of downtime is the ideal time to bring records up to speed.

The 2021 terms and conditions of the scheme are not yet available, but it is unlikely the requirements for the fertiliser plan will change much, with the exception of including a liming programme.

The latest information, including a template for fertiliser accounts, can be found here.

The important components for 2020 are as follows:

  • The crop rotation plan, which must specify the area (hectares) of parcels with grass and parcels with other crops, including a map indicating the location of individual parcels.
  • The number of livestock, a description of the livestock housing and manure storage system, including the volume of manure storage available and a fully labelled farmyard sketch.
  • If a fully labelled farmyard sketch was submitted online in either 2017, 2018 or 2019 and it is still applicable in 2020 this will be sufficient.
  • A calculation of manure nitrogen and phosphorus produced on the holding.
  • The amount, type and characteristics of manure delivered outside the farm or to the farm.
  • The foreseeable nitrogen and phosphorus crop requirements for each parcel.
  • The results of soil analysis related to nitrogen and phosphorus soil status.
  • The nature of the fertilisers to be used.
  • A calculation of nitrogen and phosphorus from manure over each field.
  • A calculation of nitrogen and phosphorus application from chemical and other fertilisers for each field.
  • Soil samples

    It is also important to note soil analysis must be updated at least every four years, with one sample covering a maximum of 5ha of land.

    To get an accurate reading, samples should not be taken where organic manures or chemical phosphorus or potassium fertiliser has been applied in the previous three-month period.

    Samples should be taken in a W shape, taking care to avoid areas that are uncharacteristic of the field, such as supplementary feeding points, gate entry points, etc.

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    Department reminding farmers to submit Nitrates records