Mary Kingston: Our fertiliser calendar restrictions are not fit for purpose
With limited rainfall in early January, I've seen the odd social media post about our daft calendar restrictions on slurry spreading whilst ground conditions are good.
The policy is a widespread restrictive approach to minimise nutrient leaching. It has minimal consideration for the differences between farms - for example, soil types.
It's simple and farmers comply - but is it effective?
Our progress in future water quality will be the testimony to that but it's certainly stifling in terms of management and practicality. This issue was brought to my attention whilst in New Zealand visiting family and old work colleagues, when in conversation with Charlotte Glass, who is managing director of Agri Magic. Agri Magic provides farm system solutions to nutrient management restrictions.
Charlotte outlined that New Zealand has taken the option to implement an effects-based policy and there are many paths to achieve the same outcome.
In essence, by accounting for specific circumstances on farm through nutrient budgeting with the most up-to-date research and principles, this process protects the desired outcome rather than dictating the practices to achieve change. Here, ingenuity and innovation rely on a respect for the differences between principles (why) and practice (how).
New Zealand's regulations in dairying in relation to nitrogen and phosphate limits have certainly increased tenfold since I moved to Ireland. Before I left, they had started to use Overseer.
Overseer is a software programme used to model nitrogen cycling on farm. However, the process was somewhat in its infancy of development and implementation.