NVZs – Getting equipped: Making sense of DEFRA’s nine guidance booklets

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NVZ legislation brings with it a mountain of paperwork. Ian Ashbridge examines the nine guidance booklets and explores how to use them

nvz leaflet 1

Last October, DEFRA sent out a small, A5 booklet to farmers it believed were in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, introducing them to what the NVZ legislation would require of them.As well as a brief overview, it gives the dates for the closed periods when some animal manures must be stored and not spread.

It contained a brief introduction to the NVZ rules, how they would be enforced (by the Environment Agency) and an overview of the nitrogen management calculations that farmers would have to make. It also made mention of the nine further guidance booklets available to farmers, and a telephone number from which they could be requested.

Leaflet 2

nvz leaflet 2

Leaflet 2 explains how the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations will be implemented, who is responsible for complying with the rules, and how they will be enforced. It explains that for farms that are part-in and part-out of an NVZ, the rules will apply on a field-by-field basis, and the storage capacity and livestock manure farm N limit will apply on a pro-rata basis. Leaflet 2 also gives dates from which the rules will be implemented – for instance, by 30 April 2009 farmers within existing NVZs must have calculated and recorded manure storage capacity requirements.

Leaflet 3

nvz leaflet 3

This is a really important one. Leaflet 3 contains many of the standard values farmers will need to complete the manure output, storage and nitrogen content calculations. This is the encyclopaedia of the nine booklets and is essential to completing the calculation and record keeping. It also contains the figures showing the NMAX limits.

It also includes a glossary of the terms the legislation adopts for instance, it defines what DEFRA and the Environment Agency deem “slurry” and “solid manure”.

Leaflet 4

nvz leaflet 4

This deals with the storage of organic manure. By 1 January 2012, farmers must provide six months’ storage capacity for poultry manures and pig slurry, and at least five months’ for slurry from other livestock. This booklet discusses calculating the slurry storage requirement, construction standards and types of manure storage, and guidance for temporary field heaps of farmyard manure. Use with the standard values for livestock in Leaflet 3.

Leaflet 5

nvz leaflet 5

Another very important one. This leaflet explains the Livestock Manure N Farm Limit. “You must ensure that, in any year beginning 1 January [a calendar year] the total amount of nitrogen in livestock manure that is applied to your farm, whether directly by grazing animals or by spreading, does not exceed 170kg multiplied by the area of the farm in hectares”. This booklet also notes that DEFRA is applying to the European Commission for a derogation from the 170kg/N/ha limit. However, it is understood that this, were it successful, would apply on an individual farm basis and is politically unlikely.

Leaflet 6

nvz leaflet 6

This deals with planning nitrogen use, and will be familiar to farmers who are in an existing NVZ. The regulations specify that farmers must plan all use of nitrogen fertiliser following a four-step process: Calculate the amount of crop-available nitrogen in the soil, calculate the optimum amount of N that the crop should receive, taking into account the soil status, calculate the amount of crop-available N from livestock manure, and calculate the amount of manufactured nitrogen fertiliser required. To pass compliance inspection, farmers must keep a record of the plan and record details of actual nitrogen applications (in any form). The inside back cover provides a template for keeping these field records.

Leaflet 7

nvz leaflet 7

The term “NMAX” has become synonymous with the new NVZ rules, but is relatively straightforward. In plain language, it is the maximum permitted amount of nitrogen from any source that a crop may receive. However there are a few exceptions – oats, for instance, have no NMAX. The legislation places a responsibility on farmers in NVZs to ensure the average nitrogen application rate to a particular crop does not exceed the NMAx limit.

Leaflet 8

nvz leaflet 8

Where and where not to spread livestock manures. This leaflet refers to some significant changes that will affect most farmers – not just dairy, pig or poultry farmers dealing with nitrogen rich slurries or manures. For instance, permanent muck heaps on bare soil are no longer acceptable – they must be of a reasonably dry, stackable material and moved each year. They must not fall within 10m of a land drain or 50m of a borehole. Farmers must prepare risk maps showing surface water, land drains – however old – and slopes of more than 12 degrees. It also helps identify high and low risk areas of nitrate pollution.

Leaflet 9

nvz leaflet 9

The last leaflet deals with the application of manufactured fertiliser, specifying the closed period for nitrogen fertiliser application and conditions where there is a risk of polluting surface water. This is the thinnest booklet in the information pack and also sets out how farmers must conduct field inspections before applying fertiliser. Farmers will also have to record all applications.

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