HC Deb 12 April 2002 vol 383 cc647-8W
Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals she has to permit the spreading of organic manure on light to sandy soils in August, September and October under licence under the regulations contained in the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone Directive; and what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of (a) cover crops and (b) catch crops in reducing nitrate leaching during autumn and winter months. [46388]

Mr. Meacher

The Action Programme measures required by the Nitrates Directive 1991 which apply in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) detail closed periods prohibiting the application of manures containing a higher proportion of available nitrogen (slurries, poultry manures and liquid digested sewage sludges) on to sandy or shallow soils which are more prone to nitrate leaching. Relaxation of these measures would entail a high risk of increased nitrate leaching so there are no plans to allow exemptions under licence.

The Action Programme measures take account of information produced by the Government funded research programme on nitrates and experiences gained during operation of the Nitrate Sensitive Areas Scheme. For further information about cover and catch crops please refer to MAFF Booklet PB3578 "The Pilot Nitrate Sensitive Areas Scheme: Final Report" available from DEFRA publications (08459 556000).

Cover crops and also catch crops, used late in the year, can help to reduce nitrate loss compared with both uncropped land and land sown with autumn sown cereals. This benefit is recognised in the Action Programme measures with the shorter closed period for manure applications for land sown with a cover crop before 1 October and not removed before 1 December of the same year.

Advice on using cover or catch crops to reduce nitrate leaching in fields that would otherwise be bare over the autumn and winter months is also given in the DEFRA Booklet PB5505 "Guidelines for Farmers in NVZs".