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Ireland’s Nitrates Directive

The drive for more environmentally friendly farm practices has been a central plank of European Union policy for over 30 years. The Nitrates Directive, which was established in 1991, promotes sound farm practice and is designed to ensure sustained and improved water quality across the EU’s 27 Member States. Each Member State is obliged to prepare a National Nitrate Action Programme (NAP), the framework through which the application and management of manure and other fertilisers is outlined and delivered.

Following an interim review of the programme in 2021, Ireland’s NAP has been amended, with additional measures implemented to ensure the protection of water quality.

Explaining the changes, Ted Massey, an inspector in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) Nitrates and Biodiversity Edition, stated: “there was a clear need to stabilise and reverse those negative trends in terms of water quality and that’s an issue for all farmers because, if we reflect on it, the quality of water in any catchment is representative of the cumulative impact of all pressures on that catchment“. Mr Massey added: “it is not an issue of derogation versus non derogation, dairy versus drystock, livestock versus tillage – it’s an issue for all farmers to play their part in reducing the loss of nutrients to water and seeking to reverse those trends.

Both the increase in chemical nitrogen use between 2017 and 2021 and the national dairy herd number rising by 12% during the aforementioned window were cited in the NAP’s subsequent amendments.The Irish nitrates derogation permits farmers to farm at higher stocking rates – i.e., above 170kg livestock manure nitrogen (N)/ha and up to 250kg N/ha across all land declared on the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). Additional environmental protection conditions also apply in this instance. In the region of 7,000 Irish farmers avail of the derogation, with Denmark, the Flanders region in Belgium and The Netherlands the only other EU Member States in which the derogation currently operates.

As of January 2023, Irish dairy herds have been categorised into three N excretion bands: the low band of 80kg N/head/year, the middle band which is set at 90kg N/head/year and the high yielding third band which takes account for high yielding herds at 106kg/N/head/year. This represented a major shift from the overall 89kg N/cow/year excretion rate which applied up to the end of 2022. Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) is now compulsory for anyone with a grassland stocking rate of 150kg N/ha or more while the closed period for slurry kicks in on Sunday, October 15, two weeks earlier than the previous NAP.


Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Report

On Friday, June 30th, as part of the Irish NAP’s mid-term review, the DAFM published the water quality trends report it sent upon request to the European Commission. The report, authored for the DAFM by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has identified over 44,000 kilometres of land which requires “additional measures to protect water quality”.

The report states: “The commission requires that by January 1, 2024, derogation farms located within this area reduce their application rate of manure from a maximum of 250kg N/ha/year to 220 kg N/ha/ year.” On June 30, the report, along with additional information, was submitted by the DAFM to the European Commission.

According to the EPA: “the implementation of the outcome of the water quality assessment and any measures required is the responsibility of DAFM.” For its part, the Commission is expected to formally make its position known by September.

Industry is answering the call when it comes to achieving greater efficiencies within established environmental guardrails.



The Terra Range

With an eye on developing sustainable practices while achieving optimum production, Target Fertilisers has worked alongside Brandon Bioscience to develop the Terra Range. 

The Terra Range of fertilisers includes PSI® 362, an extract made from brown seaweed which stimulates a plant’s nitrate transponders to take up more of the available N in the soil than it would otherwise do. These additional nitrates are converted into amino acids which produce more chlorophyll and catalyse more photosynthesis. With 25% less N used, similar biomass levels are being achieved, which also contribute to higher dry matter levels in the crop thereafter.

Given the heavily reported challenges facing agriculture across the island, the Terra Range represents an innovative and sustainable solution for Irish farmers.

As a leading wholesaler of quality fertiliser in Ireland, Target Fertilisers provides a high-quality product, designed to meet the evolving demands of today’s farmers and growers.


To browse our Terra Range of sustainable products, click here

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