Are you ready if autumn muck spreading is outlawed?

Published 03 March 2021

North East Farming rules for water
Injectable slurry spreader_77423

A recent interpretation by the Environment Agency of a regulation included in the Farming Rules for Water could result in autumn applications of any organic fertiliser such as muck, slurry or digestate being stopped.

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.

NFU members can read the NFU's full written response here. Members can also find further details on making sure they remain compliant here and can use tools such as Tried & Tested.  

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.

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