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Regulation heightens need for nutrient management planning on drystock farms

Regulation heightens need for nutrient management planning on drystock farms

Changes introduced under Ireland’s fifth Nitrates Action Programme in 2023 have heightened the need for nutrient management planning on many drystock farms nationally.

As part of this programme, soil tests became compulsory from January 2023 for holdings with a grassland stocking rate above 130kg of organic nitrogen per hectare. Where valid soil samples are not available, a soil phosphorous (P) index of 4 is assumed. Where this is the case, the farm’s ability to spread artificial fertilisers containing P or the potential importation of slurry is restricted.

Joining Catherine Egan on this week’s Beef Edge podcast, Teagasc Beef Specialist, Niall Kerins discussed why farmers need to have valid soil samples to ensure compliance with the maximum nitrogen (N) and phosphorous allowances, while also providing a reminder on the key dates for the spreading of organic manures and chemical fertilisers in 2024.

“Every farmer in the country should have a Nutrient Management Plan,” Niall explained, but this is particularly the case for farms that are stocked greater than 130kg of organic nitrogen per hectare.

“If they don’t, essentially what it means is you don’t have a phosphorous allowance and a lot of fertilisers that are purchased on drystock farms on a yearly basis would have some level of phosphorous in them. If you don’t have soil samples or a Nutrient Management Plan in place, you could very well be exceeding the limits without realising it.”

Niall added: “No matter what size of a farmer you are, whether you are heavily stocked or lowly stocked, you need to know your nitrogen and phosphorous limits.

“If you are buying in fertiliser – primarily drystock farmers, they are buying in some level of nitrogen and phosphorous in chemical form – you could very well exceed your limits without having a soil sample or without having a Nutrient Management Plan in place. So it is important to find out where you are and get soil samples taken before slurry is spread.”

For farmers falling into the above category, Niall commented that their Nutrient Management Plan could be updated to reflect farming activities, if valid soil samples – taken within the previous four years - are available. If the soil samples are greater than four years old or no soil samples are available, the farmer will have to soil sample the entire farm, or else face having the farm classed as being entirely index 4 for P.

 Along with the compliance angle, Nutrient Management Plans are also beneficial for targeted fertiliser strategies. A Nutrient Management Plan will allow farmers to target nutrients to where they are required the most, take for instance P and K toward ground from which silage is harvested. Niall also mentioned that soil sampling is mandatory on all farms participating in ACRES.

 Niall also advised how farmers can best maximise the value of slurry nutrients, including using slurry on silage ground. There are numerous benefits of using Low Emission Slurry spreading techniques.

Listen to the podcast below where Niall provides more information on the above and highlights the key dates for spreading organic and chemical fertilisers in 2024

For more episodes from the Beef Edge podcast, produced on behalf of Teagasc by LastCastMedia.com, visit the show page at: https://www.teagasc.ie/thebeefedge