Science & Technology in Action

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) strives to lead the sustainable development of a competitive, innovative, consumer-focussed agriculture, food, fishery and forestry sector in Ireland through its various activities.

DAFM promotes the protection of the agricultural environment, particularly the quality of Irish watercourses, through the following activities:

  • Over €1.2bn is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in annual payments to farmers under the Single Farm Payment. In order to receive payment farmers must maintain their land in good agricultural and environmental condition and comply with nineteen Statutory Management Requirements, one of which is the Nitrates Directive.
  • The Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) and the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) promote sustainable agriculture and encourage the improvement of on-farm water management in various ways, such as:
    • Fencing to exclude livestock • from watercourses and wells.
    • Non cultivated buffer strips adjacent watercourses.
    • The development of streamside vegetation (riparian zones). These strengthen channel banks and act as a buffer strips which stop the flow of nutrients into the water channel. Buffer zones around wells also contribute to the protection of water quality.
    • Provision of alternative piped drinking water sources.
    • Provision of soil sampling.

These schemes also aim to promote broad environmental objectives to protect biodiversity and combat climate change.

The Agricultural Catchments Programme is funded by DAFM and run by Teagasc. The aim of this programme is to monitor and evaluate how effective Ireland's National Action Programme is at protecting waters against pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources.

DAFM administers the Nitrates Derogation system under the Regulations, which provide intensive farmers with a higher limit for livestock manure application, subject to certain conditions.

Further information on the Agricultural Catchments Programme can be found on and details of the Nitrates Regulations are available on under the headings Rural Environment/Nitrates.