Environment Management Notes – December
November 27, 2020
Do you have a fertilisation plan?
It is now a requirement to complete a fertilisation plan to demonstrate that there is a crop need, before applying chemical phosphate fertiliser to grassland, high phosphorus (P) manures or anaerobic digestate to any land. A valid soil analysis is required to determine the P index of your soil. Soil sampling kits and augers can be obtained by emailing or telephoning your local DAERA Direct office on 0300 200 7840.
To complete a fertilisation plan for your farm, use the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator available at www.daera-ni.gov.uk/onlineservices. Enter your crop details and soil analysis results; the calculator will identify the crop requirement. Choose the appropriate manure type and chemical fertiliser to be applied. The Crop Nutrient Calculator report can then be printed off or saved and used as your fertilisation plan.
Winter slurry store checklist
Over winter, as slurry tanks fill, it is important to carry out regular checks to ensure structural defects don’t develop resulting in unintended leaks. Always follow health and safety advice when working near slurry and never enter a slurry tank. Never take risks.
Below ground slurry stores;
- Is the tank filling too quickly?
- Does the tank appear to be filling slower than expected?
- Where exterior walls are visible, are there any cracks or weak joints?
Above ground metal and concrete stores;
- Are there any signs of mechanical damage or abrasion of metal panel surfaces?
- Is there any evidence of corrosion along panel edges or around bolts?
- Are any concrete panels cracked or joints weeping?
- For post-tensioned concrete above ground stores, is there any corrosion of the hoops? Are all cables and straps tight?
- Are all valves sound and secure?
Earth banked slurry lagoons;
- Are earth banks intact and free from subsidence?
- Are there any visible signs of damage to the liner?
- Are there any signs of damage from burrowing rodents?
- Are safety fences and gates secure?
All slurry stores;
- Is the surrounding area free from debris and vegetation to allow inspection?
- Are there any signs of increased/excessive plant growth in the area surrounding the tank?
Good maintenance will extend the lifespan of all slurry stores. Where a slurry tank is at risk of failing, the tank should not be used and must be emptied to allow for necessary repairs. If repairs are required always seek professional advice.
Urgent reminder to complete EFS training
2020 has been a year where the changes to our routines have kept us all preoccupied. For businesses that joined the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) in 2020, it is important to complete the training component of your agreement. Training is completed online and consists of a short video typically five to ten minutes long followed by a few questions. This needs to be completed for each of the options that you have chosen to undertake. You should finish your training as a matter of urgency, as your payment for 2020 cannot be processed until training has been completed.
For more information about how to log-in and complete EFS online training go to www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/online-training-efs-agreements-guidance-documents.
Rethink hedge management
The Northern Ireland landscape is characterised by hedges, many of which are cut annually in the autumn or winter as part of a modern tradition. With insects, birds and mammals under increasing pressure to find food and shelter in an intensively farmed landscape, it is important to maximise the value of our hedges for wildlife.
It is probably not widely known but hawthorn branches need to be at least two to three years old before they can produce blossom and berries. As a result, many hedges that are cut every year or every other year may not flower and produce berries. Where feasible, consider moving to a rotation where you cut only up to a third of your hedges each year. This approach allows hedges to provide flowers for insects upon which birds and mammals feed, as well as producing fruit for wildlife in the winter months. Modern flail cutters can cope with three year’s growth so where it is feasible reduce your cutting frequency and maximise the value of your hedges.