Action programme to tackle nitrate pollution from farmers

Farmers are being invited to contribute to the development of new Action Programme measures to tackle nitrate pollution.

Defra and the Rural Development Service are holding workshops on proposed tightening of the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Action Programme regulations which have been found to be ineffective.

Under the Nitrates Directive, the NVZ Action Programme should be reviewed every four years at least and Defra is in discussion with the European Commission over the form the revised measures should take.

Initial proposals include:
  • reducing the maximum manure and slurry application rates on grassland and arable land to 170kg per hectare of nitrogen, averaged over the farm area;
  • introducing closed periods across all soil types and an increase in the length of closed period restrictions;
  • a requirement for increased storage capacity for slurry, to cover the revised closed periods.

    Defra is also considering targeting the implementation of the measures according to soil type so that different locations would have different rules appropriate to their control needs.

    Nitrates from agriculture are highly soluble in water and run through soils into underground water sources and rivers and lakes. Acting as fertilisers they cause eutrophication in water supplies, depleting oxygen supplies. There are also fears that they can cause health problems in humans and animals if they are not cleared from drinking water.

    David Hopkins

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