Skip to content


The Nitrates Directive.

The Nitrates Directive is implemented by means of the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP), is the key agricultural measure in Ireland’s River Basin Management Plan for preventing and reducing water pollution from nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) arising from agricultural sources.
Ireland’s fourth NAP (contained in the Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters Regulations 2017), effective for 2018-2021, takes account of the agricultural pressures on water quality.
It provides new measures focusing on intercepting and breaking the pathways that transport nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from farmland to waters. It addresses soil fertility problems to improve nutrient use efficiency and productivity for the achievement of sustainable intensification objectives under Food Wise 2025. Furthermore under the fourth NAP there is simplification of the regulations for improved understanding and implementation.
Under the Nitrates Regulations farmers must not apply more than 170kgs of nitrogen from livestock manure per hectare per year. However, grassland farmers, with grazing stock, may apply annually for a derogation to apply up to a limit of 250kg per hectare in a calendar year, under certain conditions.
Water Quality

Measures under the Nitrates Regulations include:

  • the timing and procedures for the land application of fertilisers,
  • limits on the land application of fertilisers that are consistent with good agricultural practice,
  • storage requirements for livestock manure, and
  • general provisions on storage management.

New Changes under NAP 2018-2021

• If stocked above 170kgN/ha – exclude bovines from watercourses
• Prevention of run-off to watercourses and dry drains resulting from poaching
• Increased P allowances for build-up if stocked above 130kg N/ha – T and Cs
• Soil Organic Matter testing required in designated areas
• Soil sampling area is reduced to 5 hectares and the soil sample is valid for 4 years
• Simplification of calculations of maximum fertiliser N and P allowances
• Calculation of N and P allowances is based on the previous year’s stocking rate
• 1st of Jan 2021:
• Prevent run off from farm roadways to watercourses and dry drains
• If stocked above 170kgN/ha, troughs must be 20m away from watercourses
• Check Stocking rate now – Forms (slurry export, temporary movement, short term rental) must be in by 31st December