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What will the National Fertiliser Database mean for farmers?

What will the National Fertiliser Database mean for farmers?

A National Fertiliser Database is in the process of being established by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), with legislation for its creation currently going through the Oireachtas.

Dr. Finbarr O’Regan, DAFM inspector with responsibility for fertiliser, gave an overview of why it’s being created on a recent Teagasc Signpost Series Webinar, saying: “We want to provide accurate tracking of sales of fertiliser through the whole supply chain, so from import to end user.”

Not only is this necessary to ensure compliance with water quality and environmental ambitions, along with providing data for the monitoring of climate targets, it will also fulfil a commitment to the European Commission, which will be key for the future securing of the Nitrates Derogation.

“In time, it should simplify and provide reliable data to farmers for private sustainability schemes with co-ops and other businesses and also other department schemes such as Eco Schemes, nitrates and liming,” Dr. O’Regan added.

Once the legislation is enacted, all merchants, co-ops and farmers will have to register; no one can sell or buy fertiliser unless registered. However, he stated that registration for farmers is a simple process and can be done through Agfood.ie once the database is live. Upon registration, the herd number will then be used to account for fertiliser transactions and it is the obligation of the merchant or co-op to report this data to DAFM. The merchant selling fertiliser must check that the person who wishes to purchase the fertiliser is registered.

Except in circumstances where farmers are importing fertiliser from outside of the state for their own use or where farm to farm sales occur, the only reporting requirements for farmers will be on farm stocks to be declared once a year, with this expected to take place in the autumn time.

“The important thing to remember is – unless you’re importing from outside of state or are transferring farm to farm – the only interaction is record the stock on farm on a particular date.” he said.

During the year, farmers will be able to view and download their data from the database if they wish. When the fertiliser spreading season for nitrogen and phosphorous ends on September 14th, farmers will have one month to enter details of any closing stock of fertiliser on their farm. This data, together with any fertiliser purchases from September 15th, will be the opening stock value for the following year. Having a record of opening and  closing stock of fertiliser on farm will allow farmers accurately and easily record their overall fertiliser use during the year. However, Dr. O’Regan stated that despite the database enabling farmers to have more accurate records of fertiliser use, the onus is still on farmers to know their fertiliser application limits for each year.

Dr. O’Regan was joined by Ted Massey, also from DAFM on the webinar, who added that the creation of such a database would simplify the life of advisors and farmers, adding: “When the national fertiliser sales database is up and running and is in a position to provide reliable data, for the likes of the derogation farmers, they will no longer have to submit fertiliser records to ourselves because we will have all that information.”

The launch of the database is largely dependent on how quickly it can pass through the Oireachtas, but is expected to be no sooner than February 2023. More information on the National Fertiliser Database is available on the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine website.