Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
All farmers in Northern Ireland must follow rules aimed at improving the use of nutrients on farms and reducing water pollution from agricultural sources.
You must comply with these regulations to avoid prosecution and possible fines, but also in order to meet the requirements of the Cross - Compliance, Verifiable Standards rules of the Single Farm Payment Scheme, and other direct payments from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
In April 2019 changes to the Nitrates Action Programme were made for the period 2019-2022. The new Regulations, the Nutrient Action Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019, revoke the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 and the Nitrates Action Programme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015. They also revoke and incorporate the Phosphorus (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014, and regulations 10 and 11 of the Pesticides, genetically modified Organisms and Fertilisers (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2018.
DAERA has produced an “Activity Calendar” This summarises the activity and date you need to take action by to ensure compliance with NAP.
Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) – Activity Calendar - updated Calendar coming soon
You must prepare records for each calendar year by 30 June of the following year, and keep them for five years. These records must detail:
Where the controller is required to prepare and retain a fertilisation plan, describing crop rotation and the planned application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers to their agricultural area, it shall be made available on the farm every year. The format and content of the fertilisation plan will be detailed in guidance and you can also do this using the CAFRE on-line crop nutrient calculator.
If you are operating under an approved derogation, you must keep your fertilisation plan on farm and have it ready for inspection by 1 March for that calendar year.
From January 2018, NIEA introduced a new system for the on-line submission of fertilisation accounts. For those farms operating under an approved derogation, the annual fertilisation account can be submitted on-line at the following link
All fertiliser types (including slurry, farmyard manure and nitrogen fertiliser, must be applied accurately and uniformly as possible and must not be applied in a location or manner, which would make it likely that it will directly or indirectly enter waterways.
Slurry can only be spread by inverted splashplate, bandspreaders, dribble bar, trailing hose, trailing shoe, soil incorporation or soil injection. Dirty water can be spread by the same methods as slurry and by irrigation.
You must not use sludgigator type spreaders or upward facing splashplates.
Chemical fertiliser containing phosphorus must only be applied where soil analysis shows a crop requirement. Records must be kept to demonstrate this.
From 1 February 2020 you must not use an inverted splash plate to spread anaerobic digestate.
From 1 February 2021 Slurry contractors must not use an inverted splash plate to spread slurry.
From 1 February 2022 you must not spread slurry by inverted splash plate if your cattle farm has 200 or more livestock units or pig farm has a total annual livestock manure nitrogen production of 20,000kg or more.
Further guidance is available:
Do not apply chemical fertilisers, organic manure or dirty water when:
The Nitrates Action Programme Guidance 2015-2018 Booklet includes additional advice on how to assess these risks.
Do not apply any type of chemical fertiliser within 2m of any waterway.
Do not apply organic manure or dirty water within:
You must follow legal limits when spreading nitrogen.
Do not apply more than:
For non-grassland crops, maximum nitrogen applied (from all types of fertiliser, including livestock manure) must not exceed crop requirement and, for certain arable crops, an N-Max limit applies to the total crop area.
Unless you have been granted a nitrates derogation, you must not apply more than 170kg of nitrogen per hectare per year (N/ha/year) of livestock manure, including manure deposited directly by livestock.
Do not apply more than:
Slurry can only be spread close to the ground by inverted splashplate, band spreading,dribble bar, trailing shoe, trailing hose, soil injection or soil incorporation methods.
Dirty water can be spread by the same methods as slurry and by irrigation.
Sludgigators must not be used.
Organic manure with more than 0.25kg of total phosphorus per 1 kg of total nitrogen (e.g. some anaerobic digestates) can only be applied where soil analysis shows there is a crop requirement for phosphorus. From 1 January 2020, where this applies, a fertilsation plan must be prepared and retained.
If you have a nitrates derogation you will be able to apply up to 250kg per hectare per year, as long as you meet certain criteria and:
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has introduced a new simplified, online application process for farmers wishing to apply for a nitrates derogation from 2018. The deadline for applications in 2019 is the 31st March at 23:59.
Further guidance on the Nitrates Directive Derogation is available from NIEA
Location of supplementary feeding sites and livestock drinking points
From 1 January 2020, where there is significant risk of pollution to any waterway, supplementary feeding sites must not be located within 20 metres of any waterway. From 1 January 2022, where there is a significant risk of pollution to any waterway, supplementary livestock drinking points must not be located within 10 metres of any waterway.
You must provide enough storage for the livestock manure and silage effluent that you accumulate during the spreading closed period. You must also ensure that your storage is adequate to cover periods of adverse weather and soil conditions outside of the closed spreading period. You should account for likely adverse weather when you decide how much storage you need.
Livestock manure and silage effluent storage must be maintained and managed to prevent seepage or run-off. Silage bales must be stored at least 10m from any waterway and stored and managed in such a way as to prevent seepage onto the waterway.
You must have enough storage capacity for:
From 1 January 2020 if you are planning to build a new above ground slurry store you must ensure it is fitted with a cover. It must be at least 50m from a waterway unless adequate precautions are agreed in writing with NIEA in advance.
You must ensure that any farmyard manure you store in a field is:
You must ensure that any poultry litter you store in a field is:
You must ensure that all new, substantially enlarged or reconstructed facilities for storing slurry comply with the relevant regulations.
After harvesting a crop other than grass, you must ensure that from harvest until 15 January in the following year one of the following conditions is met on that land at any time:
The stubble of the harvested crop remains in the land; or
(a) the land is sown with a crop which will take up nitrogen from the soil, or
(b) where soil or weather conditions prevent a subsequent crop from being sown, appropriate measures are put in place to limit soil erosion.
Where grass leys are grown in rotation with arable crops, you should sow the first crop as soon as possible after you have ploughed the grass.
Any person intending to alter the use or management of areas of uncultivated or semi-natural land must obtain prior approval from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). DAERA will screen all such applications and any that are likely to have significant environmental effects will be requested to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment before a decision on whether the project can go ahead is given. It is an offence to carry out any such work without prior permission from DAERA.
The Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator - applications welcome, The Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator
Consultation on the draft Green Growth Strategy for Northern Ireland, Consultation on the draft Green Growth Strategy for Northern Ireland
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