The Farming Rules for Water have been in existence since 2018 and, unlike Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, cover the entire country and for both Nitrogen and Phosphorus applications.

The rules are enforced by the Environment Agency where advice and guidance is prioritised using schemes and grants before further stricter action takes place. In March and June 2022, the statutory guidance was updated. The original regulations for the ‘Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018’ still stand and the 2022 updates are summarised below:

Using organic manure and manufactured fertilisers:

  • If you are applying organic manures and/or fertilisers, applications should be planned using a recognised Nutrient Management Plan,
  • regular soil sampling should underpin the nutrient recommendations (every 5yrs or less).


Assessing crop need:

Nutrient applications should not exceed the needs of the crop.

  • Plan to avoid applying organic manures that will raise the Soil Phosphorus Index above the target level


Assessing risk of agricultural diffuse pollution when planning nutrient inputs

The guidance now restricts the timing and application rate of organic manures with high Readily Available Nitrogen (RAN) such as slurries, digestates and poultry manures to reduce nitrate leaching losses at certain times of year (see below). However, if certain criteria are met to reduce leaching losses, applications within this period are permitted, these are summarised below:

  • If you need to apply high RAN manures during the time periods set out in in the table below there is a restriction on application rate with a single application rate limit of 30m³/ha for slurries/digestates and 8t/ha for high RAN poultry manures — A period of 3 weeks should elapse between applications.
  • Applications of high RAN manures are permitted to certain crops which have a nitrogen requirement during the restricted time periods to meet crop needs at that time of year.
  • outside the restricted time periods, there is no application rate limit provided crop requirements and the field limit of 250kg total N/ha are not exceeded


Time periods of restricted application rates of high RAN organic manures:

Soil Type


Tillage land

Sandy or shallow soil

1 September to the end of February

1 August to the end of February

All other soils

15 October to the end of February

1 October to the end of February


NOTE: NVZ closed periods still apply for those farming in NVZ designated areas.


Assessing reasonable precautions if applying organic manures

Where possible, land managers should only apply manures to land that will have established green cover by 15th October to help prevent diffuse pollution unless they can justify their actions. Exemptions include:

  • delaying drilling to enable activities to control persistent weeds, such as blackgrass
  • leaving medium and heavy soils to weather before a spring root crops


Applications of high RAN organic manures should be incorporated within 12hours. Low RAN manures (such as Farmyard Manure) should be incorporated within a 12hr time frame unless:

  • it is applied to a growing crop or grassland
  • precision application methods for manure application are used which mitigate diffuse pollution.


FWAG SW offers both a soil sampling and a bespoke Nutrient Management Planning service to help your farm meet compliance.

If you are interested in this service, please contact the FWAG office 01823 660684 or email [email protected]