Wraps to come off NVZs
By Marianne Curtis
PRODUCERS in England should know by the end of the month whether their farm is in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone and advisory bodies are gearing up to help them cope with the new legislation which will take effect from Dec 19.
DEFRA says detailed local maps will be available electronically later in the month and producers will be notified as soon as these have been finalised. It adds that NVZs will be areas draining into rivers, groundwater and other waters which are affected by nitrate pollution.
But NFU policy director Martin Haworth disagrees with the way NVZs have been chosen. Legislation will apply to farms draining into rivers containing more than 50ppm of nitrogen.
"Although water draining from some farms, particularly hill farms, will be below this limit, diluting the problem, these will still be affected by NVZ legislation, which is unfair."
He believes there ought to be an appeal process for these farms.
"If you draw a line between Liverpool, York, London and Bristol, almost all land inside will be affected by the NVZ legislation."
DEFRA estimates the annual cost to the farming industry of implementing NVZ legislation to be £20m, most of which will be spent on record keeping, averaging £200/farm.
From Dec 19, producers in NVZs will have to keep records of all nitrogen applications including artificial fertiliser and slurry. But the first closed period – when spreading of slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sludge is prohibited on sandy soils – will not apply until 2003, says ADAS adviser Paddy Johnson.
"The closed period on arable land will be from Aug 1 to Nov 1. For grassland, it will be from Sept 1 to Nov 1. But there is no closed period for spreading farm yard manure."
The first step for producers whose farm is in an NVZ should be to read guidelines, says Mr Johnson. "The government will send guidelines to newly designated farms.
"Producers will need to work out stock numbers, the amount of manure produced and its nitrogen content. Spreading of manure must be balanced, so no more than 250kg N/ha is applied to grassland and 210kg N/ha to arable land annually."
ADAS is working on a CD ROM to help with manure planning in NVZs, adds Mr Johnson. "This should be available by late summer. There will also be a help line and free advice available to help producers comply with NVZ legislation once designations have been published."
For producers needing extra slurry capacity to compensate for not being allowed to apply it in closed periods, 40% grants will be available, he says. "But avoid committing money on increasing capacity until the legislation has gone through to designate NVZs. Otherwise you will get no grant assistance."
Unlike manures, there will be no upper limit on fertiliser application, providing it does not exceed crop requirements. Apart from timing of fertiliser applications, this will mean little change for many producers, adds Jane Salter of the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association.
But fertiliser application calculations must take account of soil nutrient status and other nutrient sources, such as aerial deposition.
"There will be no major changes in fertiliser practice for producers already doing the job well. The main challenge is having records to demonstrate it. The key is not to apply fertiliser nitrogen to sandy and shallow soils during a defined autumn period. *
• Maps available soon.
• Free advice.
• Care over grants.