12 June 1998

NVZ action plans agreed

AN Action Programme governing husbandry on the estimated 8000 farms in the 68 English and Welsh Nitrate Vulnerable Zones announced in 1996 is due to come into force on Dec 19.

Many arable holdings will have no problems complying with the AP rules, which aim to meet the EC nitrate directive, says ADAS Kirton soil scientist Paddy Johnson.

But he says farmers with livestock and those importing organic manures will find the restrictions tougher. "They will need to keep a lot of records so organic nitrogen loadings can be calculated."

Mr Johnson says that in its final form the Action Programme has much in common with the Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Water.

The ban on organic N dressings between Sept 1 and Feb 1, except where there is a specific crop requirement, will make life awkward for growers using liquid fertilisers, he adds.

"But contrary to some suggestions there is no maximum amount of inorganic N which can be applied. The rule is that no more than the crop requires shall be used.

"In some cases farmers may be asked for an agronomic justification for their fertiliser applications, for example by reference to a recommendation system. Many will have to improve their record-keeping," says Mr Johnson.

A MAFF booklet being sent to all NVZ farms this month suggests a suitable format, he adds.

Under the rules, NVZ land will have a farm-based maximum annual organic N loading of 250kg/ha (200 units/acre) on grassland and 210kg/ha (168 units/acre) on arable land, the latter falling to 170kg/ha (136 units/acre) in 2002.

Mr Johnson says these levels include organic N deposited on the land by grazing animals.

There will also be a maximum application rate of 250kg/ha (200 units/acre) on any one field. This excludes grazing droppings and will be calculated after any 10m non-spreading areas beside watercourses are taken into account, he explains.

"On sandy and shallow soils, slurries and poultry manures will be banned for certain periods in late summer and autumn, though here the final Action Programme seems slightly more relaxed than in some earlier drafts, in that August applications will be allowed if there is to be an autumn sown crop," says Mr Johnson.

Inorganic N fertiliser use must take into account N applied as organic manures, he adds. "This is not always easy as date of application, soil type, rain and, of course, the available N content of the manure, must all be put into the equation."

MAFF Regional Service Centres are arranging free visits by ADAS consultants to help NVZ farmers comply.

lThe Environment Agency will be responsible for enforcement and penalties of up to £20,000 could be imposed for non-compliance. &#42