Farmers in designated Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are to have the amount of manure they can spread on fields slashed as Defra seeks to combat the problems caused by over-fertilisation.

The ‘organic loading limit’, as it is known by the department, will drop from the current level of 210kg of nitrogen per hectare per year to 170kg for areas of the farm that are not used as pasture or other grassland.

The cut comes into effect on December 19 and will apply across England and Wales.

According to Defra over 70% of the nitrates in Britain’s waterways can be traced back to agriculture. They cause twin problems, as the contamination needs to be removed before water can be piped into homes and the nitrates which fertilise agricultural crops have the unwanted side effect of accelerating the growth of algae and other plants in the waterways, throwing balanced eco-systems out of kilter.

Guidance on how to gauge nitrogen levels in manure and what the restrictions mean in practical terms can be found on the Defra website under Manure Planning in NVZs – England.

Sam Bond

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