Farmers must ensure they take steps to abide by new nitrate regulations, a leading agricultural lawyer has warned.

Regulations extending the areas of England that have been designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) from 55% to about 70% were published by DEFRA on Tuesday (9 September).

“The Environment Agency is likely to come down hard on anyone it suspects of not adhering to limits on spreading times and quantities,” said George Fellowes, solicitor specialising in environmental issues with Burges Salmon.

NVZ map

The new rules include a whole-farm limit of 170kg/ha for nitrogen from livestock manures, which applies to all land. Grassland currently has a limit of 250kg. Closed periods for spreading organic manures will be longer and apply to all soil types.

Changes to the action programme come into force on 1 January 2009, although farmers will be given up to three years to make the necessary adjustments to their farming practices and to invest in storage facilities.

Farmers have until 31 January 2009 to lodge an appeal if they believe their land has been wrongly designated. Maps showing the new areas are available at http://nvz.adasis.co.uk/maps