11: Farm Waste Management Plan (Nutrient Plan)

At the end of this session you will be able to:

  • Describe the purpose of a nutrient management plan.
  • Explain the steps in creating a farm nutrient plan.
  • Carry out a farm nutrient plan on a farm of your choice.

Are Slurries and Farmyard manures waste or nutrients?


Therefore it should be a Farm Nutrient management plan, NOT a waste management plan!

What is the benefit of a Farm Nutrient Plan?

Following a nutrient management plan will ensure efficient use of fertilisers and organic manures and can:

  • limit nitrate leaching to surface and groundwater;
  • prevent the unnecessary accumulation of phosphorus in the soil and its potential transfer to the water environment;
  • reduce the risk of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas) being lost to the atmosphere;
  • improve soil structure.

Dr Peter Wootton-Beard RNutr: IBERS, Aberystwyth University.

  • Effective nutrient management is an increasingly important operational process, needed for both economic and environmental reasons.
  • A comprehensive plan, with close attention to detail is required to deal with complex, interacting factors. Small, incremental changes can add up to a larger overall impact.
  • An effective, sustainable nutrient management plan depends upon accurate record keeping, regular reviews and the continual refinement of practices.

NVZ: Nitrogen Vulnerable Zones

An NVZ is defined by Welsh Government as an area of land draining into ground or surface waters that are currently high in nitrate, or may become so if appropriate actions are not taken. Farms within an NVZ will be restricted with regard to how much nitrogen fertiliser can be applied to the land to limit the potential for loss to the wider environment.

Modern methods of agricultural production rely on the addition of nutrients in the form of organic or manufactured fertiliser to sustain production levels.

The EC Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) was created to reduce water pollution from agricultural sources. The Directive is delivered in Wales through the Nitrate Pollution Prevention (Wales) Regulations 2013, which aims to limit the potential detriment to the waters from agricultural activity through the identification of potentially susceptible areas known as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs).

Good practice when applying livestock and organic manures to land.

It is good practice for all liquid organic materials to be spread close to the ground using inverted splash plate spreaders, this is compulsory in an NVZ.

Applying liquid organic materials using trailing hose, trailing shoe or shallow injection equipment will allow even application, minimise ammonia loss and reduce crop/sward contamination compared with conventional surface broadcast techniques.

Match application widths to ensure even application. Avoid spillages while you are filling and moving equipment around the farm. Spillages on the road may be an offence and runoff entering surface water via highway drainage is a key risk.

If you use a broadcast technique (splash plate) then use a low trajectory and large droplet system.

Liquid organic manures should be incorporated into bare land or stubble as soon as possible to reduce odour, ammonia loss and the risk of runoff.

Solid manure should also be incorporated to bare land or stubble as soon as possible, aiming to complete the work within 24 hours.

Incorporating slurry and solid manure by ploughing is more effective at reducing odour and ammonia emissions than other techniques such as discs or tined equipment.


Where to begin?

There are many organizations offering advice but the key principles are...


On a farm map draw in the different areas using a code:

  • Boundaries
  • Rivers
  • Wet areas
  • Silage fields
  • Grazing fields
  • Any SSSI or NVZ designations

Work out how much organic waste you produce in a year.


Work out how much value is in your Organic waste.


Work out what your crops need?

*Silage fields: 1, 2, or 3 crops taken
After cut application

*Grazing fields have different needs


Work out your application methods and rates.

Spreading rates – It is good practice not to spread more than 50m3/ ha (4500 gallons/acre) of slurry in one dose because of the risk of runoff to a watercourse, or losses into groundwater.

When the soil is saturated at field capacity you should avoid spreading.

Excessively high spreading rates can also lead to management problems including poor grass silage quality, lodging in cereals and health problems in grazed stock.


Identify fields, or parts of fields, where spreading restrictions apply:

  • manures should never be spread, that is within 10 metres of a watercourse (including ditches) and within 50 metres of a spring, well or borehole;
  • spreading restrictions apply because there is a risk of water pollution, for example sloping land falling to a watercourse or ditch, or where there is shallow sandy soil or soil compaction;
  • there is an opportunity to spread some manure with care during the winter, with the least risk of runoff/drainage and pollution, until you have storage to avoid winter spreading;
  • land slopes steeply or drains towards channels (such as tracks or highways) leading to land drains or watercourses; • there are particular environmental sensitivities, for example Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Check how much storage capacity you have:

Good storage capacity offers the chance to spread manure at the correct, effective times of the year.

Work out your capacity in cubic meters and it ideally should hold up to 5 months production.

The capacity needs usually are dependent on the time of year.


For a farm of your choice create a Farm Nutrient plan.


As agriculture units become larger and their waste production increase and the cost of artificial fertilizers increases, farm nutrient planning will become more important.

It is an essential component of good agricultural practice to reduce environmental pollution.