Nitrates Derogation: Key details revealed

The derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate than that stipulated in the Nitrates Directive
The derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate than that stipulated in the Nitrates Directive
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Details of the Nitrates Derogation were announced today by the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

The derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate than that stipulated in the Nitrates Directive, subject to adherence to stricter rules to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. 

The derogation will run to the end of 2021 when the fourth programme concludes.

Over 7,000 intensively stocked farmers with 11pc of Irish agricultural area and 20pc of bovine livestock availed of the derogation in 2018 with a similar number anticipated to avail of the facility in 2019.

In addition, a further 5,000 farmers with 13pc of bovine livestock exceeded the 170 kg N/ha livestock manure limit but exported slurry, or took other actions to comply with the limit.

Recommendations of the Nitrates Expert group

The current nitrates derogation provides that at least 50% of slurry produced on the holding shall be applied by 15 June. Low emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment shall be used for any slurry applications after 15 June. The review group recommend the following amendments;

                                                               i.      Slurry remaining on the holding after the 15/4/2020 must be spread by LESS

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                                                             ii.      All Slurry on the holding from the 12/1/2021 must be spread by LESS 

In addition it is recommended these conditions should apply to all farms with a whole farm stocking rate in excess of 170 kgs livestock manure N/ha.







Compulsory adoption of a farm scale liming programme on derogation farms and on all farms with a stocking rate above 170 kgs N/ha.


All farms must submit export forms for slurry movements earlier each calendar year to facilitate timely nutrient management planning.


Ireland is a predominately livestock country with 81% of the agricultural area devoted to grassland. Grassland and its productivity are central to our livestock systems. From an efficiency perspective, the review group recommend that derogation farmer’s undertake to;

·         Record through appropriate software technology the grass produced annually on the farm. This grassland management decision support tool enables the advancement of the decision making process through regular pasture measuring and budgeting on farm, improving nutrient use efficiency, grass production and utilisation.


·         Undertake certified grassland measurement training









2020 or 2021

All new grass reseeding completed by derogation farmers must include minimum clover content as part of the grass seed mixture however the inclusion rate must not exceed 50% of the sward mixture.


Land Eligibility

Commonage/rough grazing will not be eligible for derogation in 2020 and cannot be included for the calculation of the chemical fertiliser allowance for the holding. As a consequence, this will reduce the chemical fertiliser allowance on marginal lands and reduce the risk of losses to the environment.


Crude Protein in Concentrate Feeds

The review group recommend a measure to reduce the crude protein in concentrate feeds for grazing livestock on farms with a grassland stocking rate greater than 170 kg/ha in order to reduce excess protein in animals diets.



The Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services published in early May by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reported that biodiversity loss continues in an unprecedented manner. In this context, it is proposed derogation farmers implement the measures in the All Island Pollinator Plan. The review group recommend the adoption of a biodiversity measure on derogation farms


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