Launched in April 2018, the rules are set out in the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations and ‘Rule One’ or Regulation 4, requires farmers to plan any application of organic materials and manufactured fertilisers so that it does not exceed the needs of the soil and crop on that land.
According to the Environment Agency, the recent update to Rule One does not include a recommendation for N applications to most crops in the autumn. Only OSR, Linseed and grass (if it is growing) is deemed to have a nutrient requirement at that time of year. The regulation (RB209) states that there is enough N in the soil post-harvest for most crops to get established. Cover crops and legumes have zero requirement for N.
Challenging this interpretation
Last autumn, the NFU started to see farmers being challenged under Rule One for using organic materials. In response, concerns have been raised repeatedly with the regulator over the last two years.
More recently the NFU formally raised these concerns with Defra as part of its ongoing review of the regulations.
AHDB is commissioning a piece of work to examine the practical and financial impacts of the current EA approach to Rule One and the NFU is calling on the authorities to thoroughly consider their findings when deciding how to move forward with the regulations.