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CMP August 2021 Update – Farming Rules for Water (FRfW)



Farming Rules for Water (FRfW)

August 2021 CMP Update


  • New legislation was introduced in April 2018 to reduce diffuse pollution from Agriculture and fulfil obligations to improve water quality under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).
  • These rules were called ‘Farming Rules for Water’ (FRfW).
  • They apply alongside NVZ requirements (if you are in an NVZ) and Cross Compliance conditions where applicable.
  • There are 8 rules which are summarised at the end of this document and full details can be found at:
  • Figures recently produced by the Environment Agency (EA) in September 2020 reported that only 14% of rivers had achieved good ecological status and none were classified as being in good chemical status. This along with pressure from some environmental groups has arguably led to the EA providing more detailed clarification and interpretation of one aspect of the regulations concerning application of manures in the autumn.

Rule 1 Update

As discussed, the EA have recently released some more detailed interpretation of ‘Rule 1a’ of the FRfW regulations which state that applications of organic manures and artificial fertilisers must not exceed crop and or soil need.

The interpretation of these rules is constantly changing, but for now this means farmers will need to do the following to meet the FRfW requirements:                                                                                                  

  • Only apply fertilisers and manures where there is a recognised crop need. In the EA’s interpretation there is no need for any N to be applied before cereals in the autumn.
  • In fact, the only mainstream crop where applications in the autumn are permitted are likely to be WOSR and grass although you will need to have a plan demonstrating crop need before spreading takes place.
  • There are no specific dates in the regulations defining each season, but EA have suggested that autumn is viewed as 1st Sept to 30th Nov and that spring then starts on the 1st
  • Whilst NVZ rules just concern N, these FRfW cover all nutrients with Phosphate (P) being highlighted. Therefore, farmers need to be very careful about applying any P containing manures where soil indices are at index 3 or higher (as there is very rarely any requirement for applied P on most crops on soils at index 3 or above).
  • The EA have recently announced a Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) which potentially permits the spreading of manures that would exceed crop need if several conditions are met. Full details of eligibility criteria and application details can be found at


Suggested Actions to Comply with Updated Rule 1 Guidance:

  • Do not spread any manure or artificial fertilisers to ground destined for cereals in the autumn.
  • This will mean storing manures until next spring before spreading. If you cannot do this, you will need to consider an RPS application to the EA but you will need to be sure you can meet the RPS criteria.
  • If you have sewage cake on farm ready to be spread, please contact your sewage sludge provider before spreading takes place and ask them about the compliance of their intended application considering the FRfW Rule 1 update.
  • Applications of manure or fertiliser will usually be justified to WOSR in the autumn providing other spreading criteria in rules 3, 4 and 5 are met and a nutrient plan is in place before application. It is unlikely that anything over 30kg/ha N would be justified and muck may also breach the regulations if it exceeds the P requirement of the crop.
  • Application to grassland might also be justified in the autumn IF there is a crop need and a plan is in place. Contact your FACTS advisor to discuss.
  • Don’t forget to also comply with NVZ closed periods and maximum N limits.


Summary of all FrfW Rules:

The 8 separate rules are:

1a) Application of organic manures and manufactured fertilisers must not exceed soil or crop need.

1b) Soils should be tested for P, K, Mg and pH at least once every 5 years. Soil Nitrogen Supply (SNS) must also be assessed either using the Field Assessment Method or using Soil Mineral Nitrogen testing.

2) Do not store manures within 10m of a watercourse or within 50m of a spring, well or borehole. Additionally, they must not be stored in any location that might lead to a pollution incident (such as slope leading to watercourse/on top of field drains/waterlogged ground etc).

3) Organic manures or manufactured fertiliser must not be applied if ground is waterlogged, snow covered or has been frozen for more than 12hrs in the previous 24.

4) Organic manures must not be spread within 10m of a watercourse or within 6m if using precision application such as dribble bar/trailing shoe/disc injector no deeper than 10cm.

5) Manufactured fertiliser must not be applied within 2m of a watercourse.

6) Reasonable precautions must be taken to prevent erosion and run off from organic manures/fertiliser, and management and cultivation practices in addition to poaching from livestock.

7) There should be no livestock poaching within 6m of a watercourse.

8) Stock feeders should not be placed within 10m of a watercourse or 50m of a spring, well or borehole OR anywhere where there is a significant risk of pollution from the feeder (e.g., steep slope over 12 degrees, waterlogged ground etc).

*CMP assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this summary report.*