The Farming Rules for Water, which were introduced in 2018 in England, provide clear standards for the application of fertilisers and manures on agricultural land. Rule 1 (Regulation 4) of these Farming Rules requires the application of organic manure and manufactured fertiliser to be planned so that it does not exceed the needs of the soil and crop, nor give rise to a significant risk of agricultural diffuse pollution.
Where organic manures are spread as a means of disposal rather than as a fertiliser required by the crop, the Environment Agency has recently published a Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) for this coming autumn. The position statement applies to land managers and allows them to follow specific conditions so that they can apply organic manure on agricultural land that may exceed the needs of the soil or crop, although it is still important to note that there must be no risk of pollution.
The RPS details that in order to spread organic manure that exceeds the crop or soil requirement between now and 1st March 2022, a land manager must be able to prove that the following options are not feasible:
- Storing the organic manure at the place of production
- Storing the organic manure at the place of use
- Sending the organic manure to an off-site anaerobic digestion plant or other effluent treatment plant, including at a sewage treatment works
- Storing the organic manure off-site
This will show that the only remaining option is to spread the organic manure. If a land manager can comply with the conditions of the RPS, and are able to spread organic manure, this must only be done on low leaching and run-off risk land. This is where:
- The soil is not sandy or shallow
- The land is not left bare over winter
- The land has an average slope of less than 8 degrees and drainage is not impeded
- The soil is not at field capacity above a land drainage system or shallow groundwater
- The land does not have cracked soil above a land drainage system or shallow groundwater
- The land has not been pipe-drained, mole-drained or sub-soiled in the last 12 months
- The land is not within a designated groundwater source protection zone 1
- The spreading of the organic manure is at least 10 metres from surface water or a conduit leading to surface water
- The spreading of the organic manure is at least 50 metres from springs, wells and boreholes
in advance to inform them of this. Included in the email must be the company name using the RPS and the contact details, the type of organic manure being spread and the field locations. The subject line for the email must be ‘Spreading organic manures on agricultural land: RPS 252’.