Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

'Fertiliser was cheap, there was a big demand for food, so we fired it on'

Harold Kingston
Harold Kingston

TAKING advice from farm advisors is key to protecting water quality and ensuring that farmers aren't hit in the pocket by failing to comply with standards.

But who provides that advice is important. Farmers are least likely to trust advice from local authorities, government departments including the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, and most likely to listen to Teagasc advisors, family, other farmers and the farming press.

The cost of getting a plan in place ranges from around €200 up to €1,000, depending on the level of complexity involved, according to former IFA environment chair and member of the advisory committee of the EPA, Harold Kingston.

"It is an issue that a lot of this advice is expensive," he said. "If you want to justify the cost, you need to think about the cost of a tonne of fertiliser versus the cost of a tonne you didn't need to spread or spread in the wrong place.

"The key thing is to take the advice. You've paid for it, so take it."

Teagasc and a range of private consultants provide a service, while the Department of Agriculture also spends €100m on the knowledge transfer programme which gets farmers together to lead possible solutions, with farm visits part of the ­programme.

The thinking is that advice is shared, leading to better outcomes.

With fertiliser costing between €230 to €400 a tonne, getting the maximum results is a win-win from the environmental and cost perspective.

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"When we joined the EU, fertiliser was cheap, there was a big demand for food and we fired it out and drove on," Mr Kingston added. "Two things happened - it ended up in water courses and we're still dealing with that, and the price of fertiliser went up. We're learning more about the use of fertilisers and soils and how they work and how to manage it."

Indo Farming