Pilot schemes to curb nitrate leaching failing on many farms

Official efforts to prove that voluntary action by farmers can achieve major reductions in nitrate leaching are failing on a large number of farms. Studies of the early impact of an advisory campaign in areas where the voluntary approach is being tested have shown that many farmers are continuing to apply excess nitrogen, causing large losses into aquifers.

Two pilot schemes to curb nitrate leaching were established by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in 1990 (ENDS Report 183, pp 29-30). They were a belated response to a requirement imposed by EC legislation in 1980 to keep nitrate levels in drinking water below 50mg/l.

Ten Nitrate Sensitive Areas (NSAs) were established in England to test farming practices designed to reduce nitrate leaching, and also to gauge whether

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