From January 1 members working within Scotland’s Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) face regulation changes.
The regulation changes coming into force in the New Year were announced back in May 2013, so this is a reminder to all members to ensure they understand the implications of the extensions to the closed period for spreading slurry on some soil types and the impact of changes to how much of the nitrogen in cattle and pig slurry will be considered as contributing towards their crops’ nitrogen requirements.
Dr Bill Crooks, Senior Consultant with the SAC Consulting arm of Scotland’s Rural College, has said:
“At first sight the new rules may seem little different from what has gone before, but in reality there could be some complicated calculations to do if farmers are to stay within the regulations and avoid penalties.
For example what are known as the minimum Nitrogen Efficiency Values for both pig and cattle slurry will be increased by 5%. For farmers this means more of the nitrogen their crops need will be reckoned to come from these slurries, so less can be applied as inorganic or “artificial” fertiliser later in the season.
Those farmers in NVZs applying pig and cattle slurry after January 1st 2014 need to understand the implication of this change and redo their sums,” he says.
Dr Crooks explains the intention of the rule changes is to emphasise that the application of fertilisers with a high organic nitrogen content, such as slurry, is most efficiently done in spring or during the growing season. He also points out that the guidance offered to farmers about the nitrogen requirements of crops has been extended to cover a wider range based on the Technical Notes issued by Scotland’s Rural College (TN651, TN649 and TN623).
Another important change is the extension of the closed period for organic manures in certain cases. On sandy or shallow soils the end of the closed period (when farmers cannot spread slurry) remains 31 December. However it has been extended for soils described in the regulations as other. Their closed period is now extended until 31 January. Farmers with these soil types need to be aware of this to avoid breaking the rules.
In addition to the key changes there are several other adjustments, including record keeping. While farmers in NVZs will now be required to keep records of their annual activities for just three years they must now map and record the location of any field heaps. The rules on where the heaps can be located have also been clarified.
“The importance of good soil health has also been addressed,” says Dr Crooks. “Farmers who add composts to help soil structure now have a little more flexibility. In any one year they can now apply up to 250kg/ha of extra organic nitrogen in the form of approved compost, as long as the maximum application rate of 500kg/ha is not breached. However the following year’s applications must be planned so that over the 24 months the annual NVZ limit of 250kg/ha of organic nitrogen is not broken.”
The detailed amendments can be found here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/Environment/NVZintro/LatestNVZNewsGuidance
The SAC Consulting press release can be found here: http://www.sruc.ac.uk/news/article/686/changes_to_scotland_nvz_rules_in_january_2014_%E2%80%93_sruc_warns_farmers_to_be_ready