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How to minimise nitrate loss in farming to help improve water quality

On this week’s episode of the Dairy Edge, Edward Burgess, Agricultural Catchments Specialist, talks about minimising nitrate loss in farming to help improve water quality.

Edward first explains the Agricultural Catchments Programme, what it does and how it contributes to the body of evidence required to support changes to nitrate regulations within Ireland. 

There will always be nitrate loss occurring regardless of the land use, he says, but it's important to minimise the amount of it in order to attain the standards required.

Explaining the rationale for the closed period, he says that half of the nitrate loss in catchments occurs during this time, which is generally only approximately a quarter of the year. Given this, it is important that levels of surplus nitrogen, which is nitrogen in excess of crop requirement, are kept to an absolute minimum at this time of year to keep the losses as low as possible. 

Edward also encouraged farmers to assess their situations and make adjustments. This could include extra storage or planning to use organic nitrogen more efficiently during the growing season to minimise the quantites being spread late in the year.

However, he points out that there has been a consistent reduction in the losses in the Timoleague Catchment over the last four years, which certainly has in some part come about due to practice changes. If farmers continue to be prudent with their use of all nutrient sources on their farms, he says, then water quality can continue to move in the right direction without having to reduce stocking rate. 

For more episodes from the Dairy Edge podcast, which is a co-production with LastCastMedia.com, visit the show page.

This podcast was produced as part of Agricultural Catchments Week.