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Reminder to farmers to prevent nitrate pollution


The Environment Agency today reminded farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) that they should not spread slurry on their fields over the winter.

The closed period for spreading slurry is between 15 October and 15 January on grassland, and 1 October and 15 January on arable ground. If soil is shallow or sandy the closed period is 1 September to 31 December on grassland and 1 August  to 31 December on arable ground.

Phil Shere, the Environment Agency’s Principal Agricultural Officer, said: Around 60 per cent of nitrates that are found in rivers come from agriculture. As the South West has over a third of England’s dairy herd, slurry is a significant contributor to nitrate levels. Slurry is an invaluable nutrient, but if you spread too much or at the wrong time, it can leach out or be washed off into rivers, lakes and groundwater. High levels of nitrates harm aquatic plants and animals from the smallest stream right down to our bathing waters.’

The Environment Agency has got targets for improving the quality of watercourses and bathing waters in order to meet the requirements of the Water Framework and revised Bathing Water Directives. Getting nutrient management right is an essential part of achieving those targets and protecting and improving water quality across the South West.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones restrict the amount of slurry farmers can spread near watercourses or on frozen or saturated land. Consequently farmers need to ensure they have enough storage to see them through the winter.

By 1 January 2012 all farms within a NVZ must have  at least five months slurry storage  for cattle and six months for pigs and poultry. Farmers need to start planning now if they have not got adequate slurry storage, as planning permission maybe required. All new slurry stores need to be compliant with the new 2010 Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil (SSAFO) 2010 Regulations.

‘Farmers should contact the Environment Agency now if they’re planning new storage. A new store can be costly, and the last thing farmers would want is for us to visit them once it is completed and say it doesn’t comply with the SSAFO regulations. It may be that a cheaper option such as an earth bank lagoon would be a suitable alternative, ‘ added Phil Shere.

For more help and advice contact the Environment Agency on 0800 807060 or visit

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