ScotGov Says No to Flexibility on NVZ Closed Periods

NFUS request made in light of wet weather

An NFU Scotland request to the Scottish Government for Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) rules to be relaxed to recognise the prolonged period of wet weather has received the response that no flexibility is possible.

Producers in NVZs are acutely aware of their obligations not to spread manure and slurry during the set closed periods.  However, the heavy rain and late harvest has limited the opportunity for some in NVZs to apply organic fertiliser ahead of the closed period starting. 

The response from Scottish Government recognised that the ongoing wet weather was creating difficulties but confirmed that a request to Europe for flexibility or derogation from the NVZ action programme was not being considered. 

The Union will now work with Scottish Government and SEPA in getting advice and guidance out all Scottish farmers that may be struggling with slurry or manure storage.

NFU Scotland’s Head of Rural Policy, Jonnie Hall said:

“Ground conditions across the country are far from ideal at the moment and many field operations, including the spreading of organic manures, are proving to be a headache for many Scottish farmers.  For those in NVZs, that headache is compounded by closed periods when spreading is severely restricted.

“The NVZ rules only allow the spread of slurry or manure on sandy or shallow soils up September 15 if a cereal crop is sown before that date, or September 30 if the crop sown is oilseed rape.  Conditions this year mean that there has been much less land sown to cereals to date than would normally be the case, and many in NVZs cannot legally apply organic material to land intended for winter crops.

“The existing situation may also result in slurry storage problems although those in NVZs are expected to have the insurance of six months storage as a minimum.

“NFU Scotland asked Scottish Government if there was any scope to seek European approval for a derogation to the NVZ action plan to extend the spreading window or introduce any flexibility.  Unfortunately, the answer was no.

“Looking ahead, we now need to work with Scottish Government and SEPA in giving clear guidance and assistance to farmers struggling to juggle slurry storage with an opening when the slurry can be safely applied to land.  Given the rainfall across the country, that could be an issue for all farmers and not just those in NVZs who must also cope with closed periods.

“If these changes to weather patterns are long term, and wetter autumns are to be the norm, then we may need to look in the future at whether the dates of closed periods in NVZs are still relevant or whether they need to change.”   


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 158/11

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