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Reducing Losses of Nitrates

Why are we funding this package?

Good water quality is a key outcome of the SRDP. It will help to maintain and enhance biodiversity and environmental conditions on farm land and in the waters which drain from farms.

This package will help to deliver the Water Quality outcome. It will support actions anticipated under the revised Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) Action Programme and under other codes of good practice, aimed at reducing nutrient loading of the water environment. It will provide benefits to both the farm environment and farm business by making better use of plant nutrients.

What will this package achieve?

Most of Scotland's water environment is generally in good condition. However, in some areas ground or surface waters receive substantial quantities of nitrate from agricultural activities. Under the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC):

  • where nitrate concentrations exceed, or are likely to exceed, 50 milligrams per litre (50 mg/l NO3), member states must take action and designate Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. Within these Zones land managers must limit nitrate losses to the water environment
  • where surface waters are eutrophic,¹ or may in the near future become eutrophic, and a significant amount of the nitrate present in the water comes from agricultural sources, member states must designate the land draining into the waters as NVZs and put in place action programmes to tackle the nutrient enrichment.

¹ Under the Nitrates Directive (Article 2(i)), eutrophication means 'the enrichment of water by nitrogen compounds, causing an accelerated growth of algae and higher forms of plant life to produce an undesirable disturbance to the balance of organisms present in the water and to the quality of the water concerned'.

Actions to ensure good water quality standards are met across Scotland will also be required under the Water Framework Directive.


This package seeks to reduce the risk and potential impact of nitrate losses from livestock manure/slurry and/or from manufactured fertilisers. The Options listed here are less wide-ranging than those of the Reducing Diffuse Pollution Package.

The benefits of reducing nitrate losses include:

  • improved water quality by reducing the risk of nutrient enrichment which can damage freshwater habitats and species, and can affect coastal waters
  • improved biodiversity, on land and in water, by reducing nutrient loading in sensitive habitats such as wetlands
  • improved soil conditions, if slurry or manure is applied in the right conditions, soil can hold more organic matter and its fertility can increase
  • improved farm business, applying fertiliser, including manure and slurry, at the right time and in the right amount can reduce costs.

What can you do?

You should choose which of the following Options will help deliver the outcome you have selected.

We suggest the following Options may all be appropriate.

Some Options- shown in the top list - will always deliver the desired outcomes. If you choose any of these Options, you will not be expected to provide any justification for choosing that Option.

Other Options - those in the bottom list - will only help achieve the desired outcome in specific circumstances. If you choose any of these, the application system will ask you to explain how you see this Option helping to achieve the outcome. You can select as many, or as few, Options as you think you will need. You must judge which Options will most effectively deliver the desired outcomes taking account of your circumstances.

Please note that the SRDP cannot be used to support activities that are already a legal requirement. Under the Nitrates Directive, land managers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are required to take action to limit nitrate losses to the water environment. As a result, eligibility to some Options or capital items is restricted.

Support for drafting a Nutrient Management Plan is only available for land outwith NVZs since farmers in the NVZs are already required to carry out such planning as part of the NVZ Action Programme. Farms with slurry-based systems will be required to have slurry storage facilities of sufficient volume to enable slurry to be applied when the risks of losses from the land are low. However, in the transitional period, farmers in NVZs will be eligible for support for the upgrading and expansion of slurry storage capacity.

For further details, please see the guidance for individual options.


These Options will always deliver the desired outcome:

These Options will help to achieve the desired outcome in specific circumstances:

Other support available under the SRDP

There are other options available under the SRDP that can help you reduce nitrate losses. These options are available under the Land Managers' Options scheme and they can complement and support your proposal under the Rural Priorities scheme. They involve a change in land use and management practices that will reduce the amount of fertilisers applied to the land, and thus reduce the risk to the water environment.

  • Management of grass margins and beetlebanks in arable fields
  • Biodiversity cropping on in-bye
  • Management of conservation headlands
  • Retention of winter stubbles


Link to more detailed information and additional advice

Farm Soils Plan - Protecting Soils and Income in Scotland

PEPFAA code of practice

Scottish Agricultural College 4 Point Plan

NVZ Action Programme guidelines to be published