Farmers urged to know NVZ dates

Farms within Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) will need to have slurry storage capacity for at least six months’ production for pig slurry and poultry manure and for at least five months production of other slurries from 1 January 2012.

The changes are the remaining parts of the 2008 NVZ regulations coming into force next month and include a ban on high trajectory slurry spreading above 4m.

Farmers in NVZs also need to abide by restrictions already in force, including closed periods for spreading organic manures and manufactured nitrogen fertilisers; keep detailed records of applications, ensuring that annual manure applications remain below 250kg/ha of nitrogen for each field; ensure that farm livestock manure limits are below 170kg/ha of nitrogen; and not exceed crop requirements for available nitrogen.

Rebecca Wells, co-ordinator for the nutrient management campaign Tried & Tested, said it was important that farmers were aware and fully prepared for these changes.

“Failure to comply with any of the regulations could result in the loss of a proportion of the Single Payment Scheme and more recent agri-environment scheme payments, and continued failure to comply could result in criminal prosecution. However, we are hopeful that where work is being delayed due to factors such as planning permission, contractor availability or tenancy issues a flexible approach will be taken.

“My advice to anyone in this situation would be to seek professional guidance and contact the Environment Agency to discuss options,” she added.

“Adequate storage allows farmers to better plan applications to meet crop demand, improving utilisation of nutrients in manure and reducing the loss of nutrients by run-off. Our nutrient management plan and best practice publications Think Manures and the New to Nutrient Management Guide can help farmers better understand how to optimise the valuable nutrients in manure and slurries.”

Whether in an NVZ or not, detailed planning and properly exploiting the potential of available nutrients, from the soil supply and organic manures applied, will help to:

• avoid negative environmental impacts

• ensure that inputs are matched to crop need to optimise yield

• prevent overspending on fertiliser or over applying particular nutrients.

Farmers in NVZs with 80% grassland are also being reminded of the option to apply for derogation from strict nitrogen limits by 31 December 2011. Applications to the Environment Agency can be by phone, online or on paper, full details can be found in the NVZ DEFRA booklet 5a available from here.

From 1 January 2012 the cross-compliance requirements for NVZs are changing to reflect this final change to the regulations. In addition from 1 January 2012 a new GAEC standard, GAEC 19 covering measures to protect water from pollution by fertilisers and manures comes into force for non-NVZ areas, as part of the last round of CAP reform. The new rules mean that:

• Inorganic fertiliser must not be applied within two metres of surface waters

• Organic manure must not be applied within 10m of surface waters, except on land managed for breeding wader birds, or as species rich semi-natural grassland and under certain other restrictions

• Organic manure must also not be applied within 50m of a spring, well or borehole;

• If farmers do apply organic manure, they will be asked to keep a map of all surface waters on the holding and land within 10m of them; all springs, wells and boreholes on the holding, and within 50m of the boundary of the holding, and land within 50m of them.

Farmers can check if they are in an NVZ by visiting and clicking on NVZ maps. Free resources for the Tried & Tested plan can also be found there or by calling the team on 02476 858 896 or emailing

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