Farmers told to look to biogas to beat new pollution rules

In the developing world herders have been using animal dung as a fuel for countless generations but now British farmers are being told to do the same - albeit in a more high-tech fashion.

Tighter controls on the level of nitrates allowed to seep into the environment kick in next January.

In the UK agriculture is responsible for 60% of nitrate pollution and farmers are being offered advice by government on how to ensure they comply with the tougher regulation.

Manure is one of the key sources of nitrates and Defra has suggested that if farmers need to make changes to storage facilities to meet the new standards, it might be worth looking at way to turn muck into brass.

Anaerobic digestion is being touted as a possible solution, with the resulting biogas being used as a fuel and the resulting energy being sold to provide additional income.

The treated manure could be returned to the soil and provide a valuable source of nutrients.

Defra says it is working with industry partners to develop a plan for promoting greater uptake of anaerobic digestion.

Similar schemes have seen great success elsewhere in the world, with biogas from livestock playing a growing role in the renewable energy portfolio of developing countries in particular.

The new Nitrate Pollution Regulations will bring the UK in line with the 1991 EU Nitrates Directive.

Defra is sending an information pack to all farmers with land in one of the country’s many Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs).

Almost 70% of the land in England now falls inside an NVZ so the changes will impact most farms.

As well as the information packs, Defra has launched a helpline for farmers with questions on the issue – 0845 345 1302 – and software tools to help with the some of the calculations required under the new regulations.

Sam Bond

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