10 April 1998
European law spells ten-year nitrates crackdown
A sharp clampdown on the use of nitrogen fertiliser – and even the number of animals that can be grazed on grassland farms – will be needed over the next ten years to meet proposed European legislation.
Targets have already been set for 69 specified nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs) in the UK. They cover 600,000 hectares, and the Department for Agriculture in Scotland, issued a revised code of good agriculture practice for the protection of water in July of last year.
Each NVZ will have individual rules set for the end of this year, for implementation in December 1999. The general limit is likely to be set at 250 kg/ha of grass per year, reducing to 170 kg after four years.
Alan Brewer, of MASS Farming and the Rural Conservation Agency, told a Milk Development Council meeting in York this week that research shows a stocking rate of 2.6 cows/ha producing the higher amount of nitrogen while just 1.8 cows produce the lower limit.
Current guidelines will be issued to farmers in NVZs later this year. They will be followed by discussions by the draft European Union directive which are likely to run on similar lines, but would apply to all farms.