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Updated anti-pollution rules on spreading farmyard manure are causing confusion among farmers as they schedule  autumn muck-spreading practices.

The Environment Agency (EA) has clarified Rule 1 of the Farming Rules for Water, which relates to using organic materials such as livestock manure. The rule stated that fertiliser applications must not exceed the needs of the soil or the crop on that land or give rise to a significant risk of agricultural diffuse pollution.

A Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) has now been released by the EA, which allows farmers to apply organic manure that exceeds the needs of the soil or crop – if they meet certain conditions – but they still mustn’t cause a risk of pollution. This means the manure ca be applied to land with a low risk of leaching and run-off and does not include sandy or shallow soils. The rate of leaching on any land must not exceed 5kg/hectare of nitrogen.

The rules on spreading manure have been put in place in a bid to reduce water pollution, but the proximity to the autumn spreading season and the need for farmers to ensure compliance y notifying the EA of any manure spreading activities has caused angst among many farmers.

The frustration arises because farmers feel the RPS does not recognise the value of using organic manures sustainably. NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: ‘To find ourselves in this situation so close to autumn shows a complete lack of appreciation of the bigger picture. These materials improve soil health and replace man-made fertilisers while use at this time of year reduces ammonia emissions compared to applications in the spring.’

Image courtesy: Etienne Girardet on Unsplash