Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Teagasc rejects Nitrates blast from pig sector

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Teagasc has rejected criticism from the pig sector that its Nitrate Action Plan recommendations did not do enough for pig farmers.

IFA pig and pigmeat chairman Tim Cullinan accused Teagasc of not realising the effect phosphorous limitations would have on the pig industry.

"Securing a continuation of the transitional arrangements on phosphorus is absolutely paramount," insisted Mr Cullinan.

The IFA man said the State body had paid little attention to the impact of the Nitrates Directive on the pig sector in their recent analysis of the regulation.

"We are extremely disappointed that in a 90-page document, Teagasc took only three pages to deal with pigs," he said.

The IFA pigs chairman said every extra kilometre pig farmers were forced to export slurry would cost the industry €1m.

The total cost over four years is estimated at €80m.

"In a week when the minister announced plans for a 50pc increase in pig production, it is crazy to restrict slurry use," Mr Cullinan added

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"If the transitional arrangements are not continued, we will be looking at losing substantial numbers of pig farmers from the industry."

However, Teagasc's Noel Culleton, who heads up the agency's programme for crops, environment and land use, insisted that the organisation's 21 recommendations to the Department of Agriculture were based on science.


"We are a science-based organisation, not an advocacy group," said Mr Culleton.

"This was a very measured, careful document that examined each problem, looked for a science-based solution, and ensured that solution would have a positive or neutral effect on the environment," he claimed.

Among the 21 recommendations from Teagasc were changes to the method of accounting for the residual nitrogen availability of animal manures, in relation to the tillage N-Index; updated figures on differences in nitrogen requirements for winter wheat between N Index 1 and N Index 2; updated figures on nitrogen requirements of winter wheat; phosphorus requirements for high-yielding cereals; timing of phosphorus applications to cultivated soils and phosphorus requirements for grassland establishment.

Teagasc also called for flexibility in closed periods for slurry spreading.

"These 21 amendments are designed to help the agricultural industry develop, while at the same time preventing any environmental damage," said Mr Culleton.

"Irish agriculture has already done a tremendous job in reducing water pollution," he added.

"Point-source pollution from farmyards is not an issue anymore since farmers spent €2bn on waste management, sales of chemical fertiliser have plummeted and slurry spreading no longer carries the risk of pollution."

Irish Independent