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Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) consultation

7 September 2012

The 1991 EU Nitrates Directive (Council Directive 91/676/EEC) was adopted with the purpose of reducing the amount of nitrate pollution caused by agriculture. It requires DEFRA to designate land draining to polluted water as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) (or to designate all of England), and then to set out certain farming practices that farmers within those NVZs must comply with (known as the “action programme”). DEFRA must review both designations and action programme every four years, and revise them as necessary in the light of the evidence thrown up by the review.

Defra put out a consultation document on 20th December 2011, which requested feedback on 16th March 2012. AHDB Potatoes Technical executive Chris Steele drafted a response on behalf of the Potato Industry and represented the views of HDC and BPEX in which he highlighted:

  • NVZ’s should remain as discrete designations. Designating the whole of England would increase costs for growers relating to compliance, transport and permits
  • The appeals procedure against designation should remain unchanged
  • Record keeping is essential but the guidance is often not clear and needs clarification
  • Keeping the closed periods as they are.
  • Cover crops should not be included as a requirement in the Action Programme, they should remain as an optional measure and their uptake should instead be promoted via Environmental Stewardship options.

DEFRA have now published their response to the recent consultation on Implementing the Nitrates Directive in England 2013 -2016.

The main areas that effect potato growers are:

  • Designation of land – Designating the whole of England or continue with discrete NVZ designations?

The Government intends to continue with discrete NVZ designations.

  • Appeals against designation 

The current procedure for appeals against designation will continue

  • Closed Periods

The Government intends to extend the closed period by two weeks to 31 January for soils other than sandy or shallow soils. However, farmers will be able to apply manufactured fertilisers during this period, when appropriate.

The new rule will apply from 15 October 2013 for 2009 designations, and 15 October 2015 for 2013 designations.

  • Nutrient Management Planning & Record-keeping

The Government is not able to significantly reduce the record-keeping requirements. They recognise, however, that that guidance to the current Regulations is not as clear as it could be. As it is what most farmers refer to, the Government proposes to review and rewrite the guidance, with industry help.

  • Use of cover crops in the Action Programme

The Government does not intend to include a cover crops requirement in the NVZ action programme

More information on the Governments response to the Nitrates consultation can be accessed at  

Please contact if you require any further information.

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