A new research project is to review the impact of the shallow cultivation measure on farmland bird species, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has announced.
Under the Nitrates Action Programme, tillage farmers are now required to cultivate stubbles within 14 days of harvest.
Over-winter stubble is a key habitat and food source for many endangered bird species like the yellow hammer.
The rules were amended to leave 25% of cereal land uncultivated following concerns from groups like Macra and Bird Watch Ireland (BWI). BWI maintains the rules should not be implemented until the research is complete.
A commitment has been made in the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) (Amendment) Regulations (S.I. No. 393 of 2022), to "review the effectiveness of the measure," Minister McConalogue has said.
As a result, the Department of Agriculture, along with the water advisory unit and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) at the Department of Housing, have formally requested Teagasc in October 2022 to develop the research project.
The project will undertake specific work on the measure to support Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme and to assess the impact of this measure on farmland bird species.
Both departments and the NPWS are jointly funding the research project, which is planned to run for five years.
Minister McConalogue has said officials from both departments “are in the stages of finalising the research project and it will be in place for the 2023 season”.
Under the nitrates rules, farmers in certain areas of the country are required to shallow cultivate land that is not planted before 31 October within 10 days of harvesting or baling.
The measure applies to farmers in Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.
It means that land has to be cultivated within 10 days post-harvest or baling, and within 14 days of harvest in all cases. Land that is to be planted before 31 October does not need cultivation.
You can read more on the measure here.