Check you're compliant when spreading manures or fertiliser this spring

Injectable slurry spreader_52966

The NVZ closed periods have come to an end. This year we have witnessed the warmest February day on record. The ground is unusually dry for this time of year, but before you head out with the spreader make sure you're familiar with NVZ rules and the new rules for water which were introduced in April 2018.

NVZ rules

Organic fertilisers that have more than 30% of their total nitrogen content immediately available to crops must not be spread within an NVZ during the times in table below.

On GrasslandOn Tillage Land

Sandy or shallow soils

1 Sep to 31 Dec1 Aug to 31 Dec

All other soils

15 Oct to 31 Jan1 Oct to 31 Jan

Restrictions on applications outside the closed period

You must not spread more than 30 m3/ha of slurry or 8 tonnes/ha of poultry manure in a single application from the end of the closed period until the end of February. You must allow at least three weeks between each individual application.

Spreading organic manures

Before you spread any type of manure, whether it is FYM, slurry, poultry litter or digestate, you must ensure you are compliant under NVZs and the new Farming Rules for Water.

How to plan your nitrogen applications in NVZs

You must plan all applications of nitrogen from organic manures and manufactured fertilisers to each crop in each field (including grass).

Your plan must show that you’ve taken the following four steps:

  1. Calculate the amount of nitrogen in the soil that is likely to be available for uptake by the crop during the growing season (the soil nitrogen supply)
  2. Calculate the optimum amount of nitrogen that should be applied to the crop, taking into account the soil nitrogen supply (the crop nitrogen requirement)
  3. Calculate the amount of nitrogen, from any planned applications of organic manure, that is likely to be available for crop uptake in the growing season in which it is spread (the crop available nitrogen)
  4. Calculate the amount of manufactured fertilizer required.

The year for applying fertiliser to permanent grassland begins on 1 January. Before you apply any nitrogen fertiliser to permanent grassland, you must complete steps 1 and 2, and prepare a plan for the spreading of any nitrogen fertiliser for that growing season.

'N Max limits' are set for different crops. This is a limit per hectare on the amount of crop-available nitrogen from organic manures and manufactured fertiliser that you can apply  in any 12 month period for a particular crop. These limits can be found in The Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2019. These limits are solely set for nitrates and do not consider your other key nutrients such as phosphorus and potash.

The Farming Rules for Water (introduced April 2018)

The Farming Rules for Water state:

A land manager must ensure that, for each application of organic manure or manufactured fertiliser to agricultural land, the application—

(a) is planned so that it does not—

(i) exceed the needs of the soil and crop on that land, or

(ii) give rise to a significant risk of agricultural diffuse pollution, and

(b) takes into account the weather conditions and forecasts for that land at the time of the application.

With the implication of these new rules it is possible to be compliant under NVZs but not under the new rules. The new rules do not just look at your nitrogen use but also require farmers to plan applications based on soil and crop requirement for all other nutrients such as phosphorus and potash.

NFU members: Get more information on the new rules, in the NFU's Farming Rules For Water briefing.

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