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Current Nitrate Regulations

Current Nitrate Regulations

Gerard McCutcheon, Teagasc Pig Specialist, tells us that the EU Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters Regulations (often referred to as the “nitrate” regulations) were reviewed and updated in 2022.

The new Statutory Instrument (SI 113 of 2022) came into effect on 11th of March 2022.  These changes are important in calculating the volume of pig slurry a farmer may take.  The main changes are discussed below.

Limit of 170 kg Organic N per hectare:

The limit of 170 kg of organic N per hectare still applies to all farms that import organic fertilisers such as pig manure. The amount considered to be applied to commonage shall not exceed 50 kg of N per hectare.  Article 20(1) no longer allows that where imported livestock manure is brought onto a holding that the calculations shall be based on the previous calendar year’s stocking rate (as was the case in SI 605 of 2017).   So the calculation is again based on not exceeding 170 kg of organic N per hectare in the current year.

Earlier closing date for spread of slurry:

Article 8 (6) states that all slurry must be applied by 8th October in 2022, and 1st of October from 2023 onwards.  However Article 8 (7) states “Notwithstanding sub-article (6), slurry may be spread between 8th and 15th October in 2022, and between 1st and 15th October from 2023 in accordance with criteria to be published by the Minister, in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, by 1st September 2022.

New soil testing requirements:

Article 16(3)(f)requires all farms with a grassland stocking rate of 170 kg N/ha or above prior to export of livestock manure shall take soil tests and shall assume P index 4 until soil tests are taken.  From 1st January 2023 all occupiers of holdings with a grassland stocking rate above 130 kg N/ha shall take soil tests and shall assume P index 4 until soil tests are taken.  From 1st January 2023 all occupiers of holdings on all arable land shall take soil tests.  Soil samples shall be taken for an area not exceeding 4 hectares (10 acres) but in exceptional circumstances an area of 5 ha. may be allowed.  Soil sample results will be valid for 4 years

Low Emission Slurry Spreading:

Article 18 (1) (b) (v) requires Low emission slurry spreading to be used for the application of the slurry produced by pigs on any holding from 1st January 2023.

Soils with a P Index of 1 or 2:

The availability of P in organic manures such as pig slurry is deemed to be 100% available at soil P Index of 3 or 4.  If a soil is Index 1 or 2 (see Table 1 below) the availability of the P from organic fertilisers is 50%.  The farmer can verify that the soil is Index 1 or 2 by soil sampling his farm.  If the farmer does not soil test the land they can still assume Index 3 soil P levels as in previous versions of the regulations.

Table 1: Phosphorus Index system remains as follows:

Soil P Index Soil Phosphorus Ranges (mg/l)
  Grassland – Mineral Soils Other Crops
1 0.0 – 3.0 0.0 – 3.0
2 3.1 – 5.0 3.1 – 6.0
3 5.1 – 8.0 6.1 – 10.0
4 > 8.0 > 10.0

*Reference SI 113 of 2022