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Tillage Update – Changes to Shallow Cultivation Post-Harvest Requirements

Mark Plunkett, Teagasc Soil & Plant Nutrition Specialist, remarks on the exceptionally good weather and soils conditions with 25% less rain in 2022 than normal. Mark has the details on the Amendment to the requirement to shallow cultivate post-harvest, under the Nitrates Directive, SI 113 of 2022

Weather and soils conditions have been exceptionally good over the last number of months, with recent rain welcomed for spring crops and grain fill. To date in 2022 we have received approximately 25% less rain (413mm) compared to the long-term average (541mm) as reported by Met Eireann at the Johnstown Castle weather station. 

Amendment to requirement to shallow cultivate post-harvest

Under the current Code of Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Water (Nitrates Directive, SI 113 of 2022) the requirement to shallow cultivate post-harvest has been amended as follows:-

  1. The original 7-day requirement has been extended to 10 days to provide additional flexibility for farmers. Shallow cultivation or sowing of a crop is now required within 10 days of baling/chopping of straw post-harvest. Where shallow cultivation or sowing of a crop is required it must still take place within 14 days of harvesting (apart from where weather dictates the requirement should not apply)
  2. Shallow cultivation/sowing of a crop post-harvest is now only required in counties Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow
  3. Where shallow cultivation is required, a minimum of 20% and a maximum of 25% of cereal land on each holding must not be subject to shallow cultivation to preserve food sources for farmland birds. Further research on shallow cultivation and bird species is planned to commence later this year and this exemption will be considered further as part of the 2023 Interim Review of the Nitrates Action Programme
  4. To address certain problematical weed species (Bromes and Blackgrass) soil consolidation will be allowed as an alternative to shallow cultivation in limited circumstances

Exemptions to shallow cultivation

In addition, the amendment exempts the need for shallow cultivation in the following cases: 

  1. Where the farmer is certified organic
  2. Where root crops or late harvested crops have been harvested (crops typically not harvested before late September)
  3. Where a cereal crop or beans has been harvested after 15th September or where a cereal crop has been undersown with another crop
  4. Where a winter cereal crop, oilseed rape or beans is due to be sown on the land by 31 October
  5. Where the land is destined for use by the National Ploughing Association later that year or in the first 2 months of the following year and the farmer has documentary evidence to support this

Other aspects

The amendment to the regulations also provides clarity on the requirement in the case of late harvested crops and the 6 metre buffer to protect intersecting watercourses.

Where the 6 metre buffer applies, the amendment clarifies that the buffer strip is to be left uncultivated.

The amendment also refines and clarifies certain other aspects of SI No. 113 of 2022.  The amendment to SI No. 113 of 2022 has been published as SI No 393 of 2022.