The government’s nitrogen application fertiliser bible – RB209 – will only be used to judge whether applications comply with NVZ regulations where growers cannot justify inputs though other approved routes, such as written advice from a qualified adviser, the Environment Agency has agreed.

The agency has clarified its position after concerns were raised over whether RB209 was being used as the sole criterion to check whether fertiliser applications complied with legislation introduced to prevent excessive use of nitrogen.

Failing to comply with the NVZ legislation could potentially have led to farmers being classified as non-compliant under cross-compliance, said the NFU’s policy director Andrew Clark.

“It could have had very serious consequences for growers’ single farm payments.”

But the EA has now agreed it will only use RB209 as a fall-back position if there isn’t an alternative approved system in place or professional advice, he says.

Practical advice

Practically that means growers being able to meet one of the following:

The application complying with written advice from a qualified – for instance, FACTS – adviser; the application complying with a fertiliser recommendation system (such as RB209 and PLANET); or the grower being able to explain how he arrived at the application rate taking into account soil nitrogen supply.

In addition, the EA says extra information is needed for milling wheats including variety, target yield and quality, previous milling wheat yield and quality records if they have been grown, and evidence of a contract if appropriate.

See next week’s Arable section for more on crop nutrition.