Farming Rules for Water - Finally an Update!

After much confusion with the introduction to the farming rules for water last year, the environment agency and DEFRA have issued some updated guidance. The new set of rules requires a plan for organic manure or inorganic fertiliser on all land types. This should include:

  • A nutrient management plan for each parcel of land.

  • Information from RB209, management software of a qualified adviser.

  • A tailored plan depending on the nutrient content of manure (measured using lab tests or an NIR machine).

  • Consideration is needed for crop Nitrogen needs on an annual basis.

  • You should avoid raising soil P levels above index 3 unless not practically possible and all reasonable precautions are taken.

Another section of the updated guidance revolves around the assessment of “significant risk” when considering agricultural pollution. The definition of significant risk relates to the Rapidly Available Nitrogen (RAN) content of organic manures. A low RAN manure is quantified at below 30% with a high RAN manure contains over 30%. The new rules for low RAN manures include:

  • No application rate limit at any time of the year.

  • All reasonable precautions are met to mitigate the risk of pollution.

  • No more nitrogen can be applied than required during that crop cycle.

  • Manures should be incorporated within 12 hours unless there are justifiable reasons not to.

  • These reasons could include spreading manure on growing crops or grassland.

However, with a high RAN manure:

  • Applications are limited to certain windows (see below)

  • Single application limits are 30m3/ha, with no repeat applications within 21 days during the restricted windows.

  • Applications of manures within these windows should be made to meet soil and crop needs of the crop through the autumn and winter period (not including cover crops).

Please see below a table of restricted time periods:


There is also guidance surrounding bare soils to reduce pollution during the restricted spreading period:

  • These could include the establishment of green cover by 15 October. Green cover can include commercial crops, green manure or cover crops.

  • If you are not planning on establishing any green cover and leaving fields bare over winter, they must be able to justify these decisions.

  • These justifications could be to delay drilling to control weeds such as blackgrass or to leave medium and heavy soils to weather before a spring root crop.

These rule updates aim to provide some clarity and allow autumn and winter applications of organic manure. The next step for most will be the creation or updating of a manure management plan and potentially testing some organic manure for quality and the RAN content. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any queries. Sam Kelly 07777 696080 sam@kellyfarmconsulting.com Charlie Davies 07904 601104 charlie@kellyfarmconsulting.com Pete Kelly 07970 942668 pete@kellyfarmconsulting.com Office 01454 614624