Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Scotland: Nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZ)

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones in Scotland

If your farm is in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ), an area designated as being at risk from nitrate pollution, you must comply with the nitrate vulnerable zone action programme rules.

Farmers must comply with the NVZ action programme rules to be entitled to the full subsidy payment under the single farm payment scheme.

There are four NVZs in Scotland. You can find out if your farm is in an NVZ by looking at maps on the Scottish Government's website.

Scottish Government: NVZ maps

What you must do

Keep records and plans

You must keep accurate records for individual fields, and your farm as a whole, for three years. These must detail:

  • the area of your farm that is within an NVZ
  • the area of each field in hectares, and the soil type in the field
  • the crops grown in each field and the date of sowing
  • the quantity of each type of nitrogen fertiliser applied to each crop, and the date of application
  • the number of livestock kept on your farm
  • the movement of any livestock manure to or from your farm
  • an inventory of the manufactured nitrogen fertiliser that you buy, use and keep on your farm
  • the location of field heaps.

You must prepare a fertiliser and manure management plan before 1 March each year, for that calendar year, which contains:

  • a risk assessment plan (if you apply organic manure)
  • calculations showing that you have sufficient storage facilities for livestock manures
  • calculations showing the crop standard nitrogen requirement (Nmax) for each crop type grown on your land, including grassland.

You will need to refer to booklets 4, 5 and 6 of the Scottish Government's guidelines for farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones to prepare your fertiliser and manure management plan.

Scottish Government: Guidelines for farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

Provide adequate storage capacity for livestock slurry and manure.

You must calculate your current storage capacity for livestock manures and slurries.

You must provide at least:

  • 26 weeks storage capacity for pig slurry
  • 26 weeks storage capacity for poultry manure, if not stored in a temporary field heap
  • 22 weeks storage capacity for all other livestock slurry.

Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) contact details

You must keep records of all your calculations for slurry storage requirements.

Produce a risk assessment plan

Your risk assessment plan must include a map of your farm showing:

  • the outline of every field
  • the area of every field in hectares
  • the locations of all surface waters, wells and boreholes
  • any area of land that has a slope of 12 degrees or more
  • the locations of any field heaps
  • any other area of high risk to the water environment, eg silos, slurry tanks.

Comply with spreading controls

You must not spread more than:

  • 250kg of nitrogen per hectare per year (N/ha/year) to any individual field within an NVZ. This includes nitrogen from all sources of organic manure.
  • 170kg N/ha/year from livestock manure averaged over the area of your farm
  • 500kg N/ha/24 month period for composts

Annual limits are calculated for the period between 19 December of one year to 18 December of the following year. They apply to all organic manure, including wastes such as sewage sludge and nitrogen deposited by grazing animals.

You must leave a period of 3 weeks between each application of livestock manure.

You must not use high trajectory raised splash plates for spreading slurry.

You must spread nitrogen fertilisers and organic manure accurately to your crops.

You must not apply:

  • organic manure within 10m of watercourses, or within 50m of a well, borehole or other water supply
  • nitrogen fertilisers or organic manure when the soil is waterlogged, flooded, frozen hard or snow-covered
  • nitrogen fertilisers or organic manure to steeply sloping fields, uncropped areas or hedges.
  • manufactured nitrogen fertiliser within 2m of surface water.

Derogation for livestock and grassland farmers

If you are a livestock or grassland farmer and meet certain conditions to help protect water, you may be able to apply for a derogation, allowing you to farm to a limit of 250kg N/ha/year from livestock manure.

All derogations will last until the end of the calendar year, and you will have to renew your derogation each year. If you are renewing your application, you must send details of your fertiliser use for the preceding year with your application.

Scottish Government: Derogation from 170kg N/ha farm loading limit and temporary storage requirement exemption

Observe closed periods

If your farm is in the Moray, Aberdeenshire, Banff and Buchan NVZ, you must not apply any chemical nitrogen fertilisers from:

  • 15 September to 20 February on any grassland
  • 1 September to 20 February to non-grassland.

If your farm is in any other NVZ, you must not apply any chemical nitrogen fertilisers from:

  • 15 September to 15 February to any grassland
  • 1 September to 15 February to non-grassland.

If you need to apply fertiliser during the closed period, you must notify your local Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) area office, in writing, within three days of applying the fertiliser.

Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) contact details

On sandy or shallow soils you must not apply organic manure with high available nitrogen content (eg cattle and pig slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge) between:

  • 1 September and 31 December to grassland
  • 1 August and 31 December to land that is not grassland. However you can apply it up to 15 September if the land is sown with a cereal crop before that date, or 30 September if it is sown with oil seed rape, a catch crop or a cover crop before that date.

On any other type of soil, you must not apply organic manure with high available nitrogen content between:

  • 15 October and 31 January to grassland
  • 1 October and 31 January to land which is not grassland.

Further information

The Scottish Government has produced detailed guidelines on the NVZ action programme rules and what you need to do to comply.

Scottish Government: Nitrate Vulnerable Zones - introduction

Scottish Government: Guidelines for farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

Information on preventing water pollution from farms is available from the Farming and Water Scotland website.

Farming and Water Scotland

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