The 1st of February marks the opening of the slurry spreading season and there are many legal conditions and restrictions about the manner in which this highly polluting but valuable fertiliser should be handled and utilised by the agricultural sector. These restrictions are enforceable by the Local Authorities and are stipulated in the EU (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017, more commonly known as the GAP Regulations.
This legislation puts into practice aspects of the Nitrates Directive, a European wide effort to reduce Nitrate pollution of waters from agricultural Sources. The GAP regulations are well known to farmers and put a onus on good farmyard management and method and manner of slurry/soiled water/ farm yard manure and chemical fertiliser application. There are limitations in relation to ‘buffer distances’, ground conditions, forecasted weather, slurry application equipment and spreading dates. Most farmers will be anxious to reduce the levels of slurry in their tanks after the long period over which animals have been housed and they will be watching ground conditions anxiously and waiting for a weather window to apply this valuable nutrient resource. Organic fertiliser in the form of slurry must be spread only in the ‘open period’ from the 1st February with a closing date of 14th October. Farmers are also reminded of the doubling of the buffer distances for two weeks after opening up of the slurry spreading season and two weeks preceding the close date.
Farmers are also urged to consider the benefits of soil sampling. It is important to know the nutrient status of the soil in order to know it’s fertiliser needs. By undertaking soil analysis and putting the results into practice, a fertiliser programme can be tailored to the needs of the soil. Repeating soil analysis over time (3 to 5 years) is also critical to monitor the effectiveness of a farm fertiliser strategy.
Local Authority staff conduct inspections of farmyards to ensure compliances with the GAP regulations and the facility to cross comply intentional and deliberate breaches of the regulations or reluctance to address issues of pollution can result in penalties to the basic farm payment.
In reality the vast majority of the farming community are environmentally conscious and with this in mind the Local Authority calls on the farming community once again to be particularly careful of water quality this slurry spreading season.
Organic or chemical fertiliser should not be applied to:
- Land that is waterlogged or is flooded or likely to flood.
- Land that is snow-covered or frozen.
- When heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours.
- Where the ground slopes steeply and there is a risk of water pollution.
Organic fertiliser should not be applied:
Using an umbilical system with an upward-facing splash-plate or a tanker with an upward-facing splash-plate or a sludge irrigator mounted on a tanker or from a road or passageway adjacent to the land.
- Chemical fertiliser shall not be applied to land within 2m of any surface waters.
- Organic fertiliser or soiled water shall only be applied to land as per the infographic.
For any further comment or query in relation the management of farmyard effluents/ fertilisers please contact the Environment Section of Leitrim County Council 071 9620005.