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Nitrates Derogation 2020 - Biodiversity


Biodiversity loss is an on-going concern and farmers are required to implement a biodiversity measure on derogation farms. This year 2020 has seen the implementation of new measures as part of the Nitrates Action Plan 4. One of these measures is to improve farm biodiversity.

The measures are aimed at securing the future of Ireland’s derogation and improving the wider environment from a water quality and biodiversity perspective. Biodiversity on derogation farms is largely measured in terms of the proportion or % of farming area with existing hedgerows or high value ecosystems. Although Irish pasture based dairy systems have been widely heralded for their lower intensity of food production, the rapid expansion of the dairy sector needs to consider biodiversity actions. Improving biodiversity on intensive farms can play an important role in halting the decline and helping to improve farmland biodiversity and maintaining soil carbon.

The background to the biodiversity measure being adopted for derogation farmers from 2020 onwards, is to help implement the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. This plan is about getting all sectors of society, from farmers to county councils to schools, to come together so that pollinators, specifically bees can survive and thrive. Currently 1/3 of Irelands 98 Bee species are threatened with extinction due to lack of food, flowers, and safe nesting sites in our landscape.

What farmers have to do?

This measure is concentrating on hedgerows on the farm and their management. Effectively farmers have to adopt a minimum of 1 of the following measures

  1. Leave at least 1 mature whitethorn/ blackthorn tree within every 300 meters of hedgerow
  2. Maintain hedges on a 3 year cycle

The principle behind these measures is to adopt proven methods that will help provide food and shelter for bees. Good hedgerows are vital to the survival of pollinators, as they provide food from spring right through till autumn, shelter for nesting/ overwintering. They also provide corridors that help pollinators to move through the landscape. View the video below for more details of good hedgerow management.

Win - Win

A lot of times regulations or rules are brought in that ultimately end up costing farmers extra money and/ or work. However on this occasion there is no extra cost or work involved just a small change in management practices or culture. Hedgerows can still be managed on a rotational basis or leave 1 whitethorn/ blackthorn tree every 300m to mature. From an environmental perspective these actions will have a very positive impact as the environment will be more favourable, more food and shelter, for our pollinators to survive and thrive.

Finally in relation to hedgerow management, all farmers must comply with the hedge cutting season which runs from 1st September through till the end of February. As a derogation farmer decide which biodiversity option you are going to pick, either cutting on a 3 year rotation or leaving 1 mature whitethorn/ blackthorn tree within every 300 meters of hedgerow, and stick with this option.