Over 41,000 farmers across Ireland have applied to the National Liming Programme, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The scheme aims to improve soil fertility and reduce chemical fertiliser usage. The department has confirmed that the programme has been oversubscribed, with 4.5 million tonnes of lime sought by the applicants. The payment rate for the programme is €16/t, which would require a budget of over €72 million if all lime sought was approved and claimed by farmers. This is nine times the scheme’s official budget of €8 million.
Despite the oversubscription, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue welcomed the application numbers for the programme, describing it as “a show of environmental strength” by farmers. The minister said he will now assess how best to move forward in light of the “enormous demand”. The department has confirmed that it will have to limit approvals to stay within the allocated budget for the programme. The department said it will be communicating directly with each applicant in due course.
The National Liming Programme is considered “innovative and pioneering” and has been welcomed by farmers across the country. The programme aims to correct soil pH on a significant proportion of farmland to improve environmental and economic sustainability and reduce overall emissions from the sector. The level of interest in the programme is a testament to the engagement of farmers in soil fertility and reducing their chemical fertiliser usage. The average tonnage sought per applicant under the liming programme is just over 111t.
The annual tonnage of lime applied nationally in recent years, including on those farms ineligible under the scheme, has ranged from 700,000t to 1.3 million tonnes. This is some way off the 4.5 million tonnes that have been sought by applicants. The department has confirmed that, in line with the programme’s terms and conditions, it will have to limit approvals to stay within the allocated budget for the programme.
Minister McConalogue has praised farmers for engaging in soil sampling over recent months and hopes to see this translate into improved nutrient management planning resulting in targeted lime and fertiliser application. The oversubscription of the programme highlights the need for more focus on soil fertility across the country. The department has confirmed that it will continue to work with farmers to improve soil fertility and reduce chemical fertiliser usage.
The National Liming Programme has been a huge success and underlines clearly how engaged farmers are in soil fertility and reducing their chemical fertiliser usage. The oversubscription of the programme is a clear indication of the importance of soil fertility and its impact on the environment. The department will continue to work with farmers to ensure that the programme is implemented effectively and efficiently.