Failure to keep good records and accurately target fertiliser use to crop need are the main areas where growers are failing to meet Nitrate Vulnerable Zone rules, according to the Environment Agency.

“Records must at least show the rate, date and type of all (artificial and organic) fertiliser applications and must be kept for five years,” said the EA’s Ian Skinner.

“If you don’t, you will be in breach of the regulations and part of your payment entitlement may be withheld.”

In relation to crop need, he acknowledged there were some problems with RB209, but said it must be used in the absence of anything else.

“If you exceed RB209 by more than 20% without justification (eg no FACTS-certified agronomist), you are likely to be penalised.”

Accounting for the total nitrogen in organic manures could be a big stumbling block and samples should always be analysed to know exactly what you were applying, he added.

“Make sure you include a copy of this analysis with your records.”

NVZs account for about half (52%) of the farmland area in the UK and Mr Skinner expected this could increase further when any new designations were made this December.