Constituent changes in agricultural diesel are being blamed for creating chaos for farmers and agricultural contractors as hundreds of tractors have come shuddering to a halt in the fields at the peak of one of the busiest periods of the year on farms.
The fuel lines and filters in the tractors are becoming blocked with a gunge-like substance starving the engines of fuel.
The problem has been blamed on a 99pc reduction in the sulphur content of green diesel.
Tom Murphy, CEO of Professional Agricultural Contractors (PAC), said that he has been "inundated with complaints from members" about the problems they are experiencing.
"This is a very serious situation for contractors, which is going to have to be addressed. It is costing my members a lot of money and loss of time to get the tractors going again. A solution is going to have to be found," he said.
"The contractors are also finding that it is taking a lot more fuel to do the same work, since the sulphur was removed. We were told that there would be a slight increase, but the difference is very significant."
Mark Woods of Maxol Oil confirmed that the change in the specification of green diesel (also known as gas oil) occurred in April as a result of new legislation which gave effect to the Fuels Quality Directive 2009/30/EC.
He said that the directive stipulates that gas oil for use in non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) must contain no more than 10 milligrams of sulphur per kilogram of fuel (commonly referred to as 10 ppm Gas Oil) compared to 1,000 milligrams of sulphur previously.
"It is now illegal to use 1,000ppm gas oil in a tractor. While it is still available and can be used for home heating, it would be illegal for us to supply it to a farmer for use in a tractor and we could be prosecuted for doing so".
A spokesperson for Jones Oil, which has a large farmer customer base, also confirmed that the green diesel being supplied is low sulphur and it is not possible for most distributors to have both available.
A Munster distributor is advising farmers to ensure that oil tanks are frequently drained -- of water -- and filters on tractors are changed very regularly to avert clogging as garages are reporting that small quantities of water, from condensation, mixing with the oil appears to be causing the problem.
Tractor filters, which previously handled this problem, appear to be unable to cope with the low sulphur mix. He also confirmed complaints from contractors in his area of a drop in the performance of the new farm diesel.
Co Louth agricultural contractor Paul Shevlin, chairman of the North East Agricultural Contractors Association, said that contractors in the region were experiencing major problems.
"We are putting an additive in the diesel and hoping that it will work. It's costing me €45 to treat 1,000 litres of diesel. We are also finding that we are using 15-20pc more diesel now to do the same work," he said.