EU consider move to cut Irish fertiliser use over concerns for rivers and lakes

Published by Ross McCann on

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15th February 2017

[/cs_text][cs_text class=”cs-ta-justify”]In a move aimed at protecting Irish rivers, lakes and estuaries, the European Commission is considering removing special allowances on fertiliser use given to farmers, known as the nitrates derogation.

The Irish government has ambitious plans for the dairy industry. The government’s roadmap “Food harvest 2020” , has outlined plans for a 50% increase in milk production by 2020.

With the planned intensification of Ireland’s agriculture sector, the European Commission is concerned this will cause increased pressure from pollution on Irish waterways.

In Ireland, over half of rivers, lakes and estuaries are affected by pollution. According the EPA, agriculture accounts for 53% of this pollution.

One of the leading causes of pollution from agriculture is fertiliser runoff from the land. fertilisers contain nitrates and a range of other nutrients essential to plant growth. Where excess nutrients end up in rivers, lakes and estuaries,a range of environmental problems can be caused. The most alarming of these is eutrophication. Eutrophication is the depletion of oxygen in water resulting from excessive algae and plant growth. The excessive growth is caused directly by nutrients from runoff present in the water . Eutrophication often leads to the death of aquatic animals.


 [/cs_text][x_image type=”none” src=”” alt=”” link=”false” href=”#” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][cs_text]In addition, nitrates can also be detrimental to human health. When high levels of nitrites are ingested, it can reduce our bodies ability to carry oxygen resulting in a disorder called Methemoglobinemia. This disorder is most often seen in young children and is therefore referred to as “Blue Baby Syndrome”.

As a result of the damage excess nitrates can cause , the EU has set strict limits governing the amount of nitrate which can be applied by farmers.

The nitrates derogation allows farmers to spread 50% more fertiliser on their land than is normally permitted by EU.

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Ross McCann

Ross McCann is a contributor to the Green News. He is currently studying for an MSc in Environmental Science and Policy in UCD. He has a background in Environmental Biology.