Update on fertiliser policy changes

CLA Land Use Policy Adviser Cameron Hughes provides an update on the use of solid urea fertiliser and offers a recommendation for members

The continued use of untreated urea fertiliser has been under scrutiny for some time, due to its contribution towards ammonia pollution.

In 2020, Defra launched a consultation proposing to ban urea fertiliser sold without inhibitors, which minimise the amount of urea lost to the air. The industry then put together an alternative proposal, which would permit the use of untreated urea fertiliser in a closed period in between 15 January and 31 March each year. This would be enforced by a new Red Tractor standard. Defra was amenable to this alternative suggestion, but the introduction of the proposal has been delayed.

However, following recent discussions, it has been confirmed that the industry proposal will be introduced by Red Tractor from 1 January 2024, and will be auditable from 1 April 2024. Any urea fertiliser used outside this period will need to be used alongside an inhibitor.

This is effectively what good practice already dictates. Solid urea fertiliser applied in warm and dry conditions has the potential to volatise into the air, which not only can cause ammonia pollution, but means valuable nitrogen is lost for plant growth.

Our recommendation for farmers

The CLA would urge those not already using inhibited urea to start doing so ahead of the introduction of the Red Tractor rules from April 2024.

To give farmers the knowledge and tools to reduce ammonia emissions from both manufactured fertilisers and organic materials, BASIS has introduced a free online training course. The course is available to BASIS members through the classroom membership hub and is available to non-members who can request access through the sign-up page on the BASIS website.

Key contact:

Cameron Hughes
Cameron Hughes Senior Land Use Policy Adviser, London