Farmers urged to get ready to meet ammonia emission controls

Farmers and agricultural landlords should start to prepare for tougher controls on ammonia emissions by taking advantage of any grant opportunities as they arise says Strutt & Parker.

With the government having recently published a new Code of Good Agricultural Practice (COGAP) for Reducing Ammonia, Tom Brierley, associate director in the firm’s Oxford office commented that meeting the Government’s requirements would require industry investment.

“This Code is of major significance as the Government’s draft Clean Air Strategy highlights that agriculture is responsible for up to 88% of the UK emissions of ammonia gas,” he said.

“The Government has already committed to reducing ammonia emissions by 8% in 2020 and 16% in 2030, compared to 2005 levels, so while the code is only a guidance document at present, there is clearly potential for some of the recommendations to be made mandatory.

“The challenge for the farming industry is that meeting the guidelines will involve capital investment, which will have an impact on both owner occupiers and the let sector. If some of these guidelines are to become legal requirements, landlords with Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) tenants are likely to find themselves served with Section 11 notices asking for the provision of fixed equipment necessary to comply with statutory requirements.

“Farm businesses will clearly need to weigh up the practicalities of what they being asked to do, along with the impact on productivity. However, given the Government is already signalling that it is keen to adopt more of a ‘polluter pays’ approach in future, it does makes sense for farmers and landlords to start preparing for the possibility of tougher controls.

“Part of the solution to the investment challenge is to take advantage of any grant incentives before we get to the point where the carrot turns into a stick.

“We already know that the Government is planning another round of the Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme later this autumn. Assuming the terms of the scheme remain the same, this will give farm businesses the opportunity to bid for grants of between £3,000 and £12,000 which can be used to help pay for low-emission spreading equipment.”

Code key points include:

  • using a nutrient management plan to calculate fertiliser and manure application rates, along with the best storage and application techniques to reduce emissions,
  • using slurry store covers to reduce rainwater entry into stores and cut the level of emissions.
  • suggesting farmers should keep the surface area of any solid muck heaps as small as possible and cover the top with plastic sheeting to reduce the movement of wind across the pile.

These recommendations tie in with a proposal included in the draft Clean Air Strategy that all slurry and digestate stores, and manure heaps will need to be covered by 2027.

In addition, the code states that when it comes to application methods, equipment that injects slurry or digestate straight into the soil, rather than broadcasting it, could reduce ammonia emissions by up to 90%.

Headline image from Defra shows a floating plastic cover on an earth-banked slurry lagoon

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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.