COMMENT: Slurry is adding real value

Well known journalist Richard Halleron from Farming Life is pictured before the Northern Bank Pre-Winter Fair dinner in Belfast this week with Hilary Dawson and John Henning from Northern Bank  .PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA

Well known journalist Richard Halleron from Farming Life is pictured before the Northern Bank Pre-Winter Fair dinner in Belfast this week with Hilary Dawson and John Henning from Northern Bank .PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA

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I attended a recent environmental conference at which the impact of the closed period for slurry spreading applications was discussed in detail.

And the good news is that the current regulations are working to improve the fertiliser value of slurry on almost every farm throughout the island of Ireland.

Over the past couple of years a significant number of farmers called Farming Life in early November to highlight the perfect conditions which then prevailed to get slurry out on to the land.

But, by that stage, the spreading ban had kicked in. And up to a point the farmers in question had a point: ground conditions were excellent and temperatures were warm enough to ensure sufficient plant uptake of the nutrients contained within the slurry.

The alternative to the fixed slurry ban is some form of flexible approach which would entail DARD and or DOE staff declaring on a week to week basis throughout the winter whether or not conditions are suitable for the spreading of slurry.

And how practicable is that?

The reality is that the slurry ban has already proven itself as a worthwhile measure for the local farming industry. It is forcing producers to spread slurry in the early autumn and spring: in other words at times of the year when it will have a definite and positive impact on crop growth.

In turn, this is helping to reduce fertiliser bills on farms. So the slurry ban is far from being a bad news, one trick pony.

And let’s not forget that the £millions made available courtesy of the Nutrient Management Scheme ensures that every farm in Northern Ireland now has at least six months’ slurry storage.

So, yes we are making better use of slurry than was the case five years ago.

This is helping to bring down chemical fertiliser costs while, at the same time, reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture as a whole.