A ban on the ploughing of grassland between June and March on farms with derogations from the Nitrates Directive is limiting the uptake of lower-input sward establishment, the IFA has said.

Under the conditions of nitrates derogations this year, farmers may only plough grassland between 1 March and 31 May.

Farmers in some regions may look to ploughing as the only suitable option for reseeding outside of this period, due to land type and weather conditions, stated Paul O’Brien, IFA environment and rural affairs chair.

“The 2022 nitrates derogation states that farmers who wish to plough grassland can only do so between 1 March and 31 May,” he said.

“This is a major change from the 2021 nitrates derogation, where the condition only related to temporary grassland,” O’Brien commented.

Essential tool

Reseeding is an essential management tool for farmers to boost grass growth and incorporate clover into swards, the IFA said, as it called for the rule change to be reviewed.

“This is essential to reduce our long-term reliance on inorganic fertilisers. Reseeding by way of ploughing is also often necessary to better incorporate farmyard manure or ensure better new sward establishment,” O’Brien said.

"Options such as extending the date to later in the season have to be looked at.

"Otherwise, we will end up discouraging farmers from adopting clover and multi-species grassland, which would be a hugely retrograde step,” he claimed.