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Book of Abstracts

11th IFOAM
Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996
Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract front page
Subject index
Athor index


Nitrate Directive: Action plans & organic farming S31

Stopes, Christopher; Philipps, Lois

Elm Farm Research Centre, Newbury, RG20 0HR, UK.

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As the UK moves to comply with the EU Directive on Nitrate in water, significant parts of the country have been designated to fall into smaller Nitrate Sensitive Areas (NSA) or much larger regions identified as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ). The management requirements (Action Plans) to achieve a reduction in nitrate leaching in these areas do not mention organic farming, however, the exclusion of clover and prohibition of rotations in the tightly defined and restrictive NSAs effectively prevents organic farming. In NVZs the focus (covering a much larger area) the Action Plan is restricted to the 'good management' of inputs (Good Agricultural Practice) rather than systems thus ignoring the potential for organic farming. The results of research and monitoring studies of nitrate leaching from organic farming systems in Europe suggest that they could offer a viable approach to limit nitrate leaching whilst also meeting the requirements of broader goals of sustainability (Kristensen et al, 1995). On-farm monitoring carried out by Elm Farm Research Centre during 1993-96 on three organic farms has involved the use of 10 porous ceramic cup water samplers installed at a depth of 1 m in each field of the organic rotation. The results have shown that the nitrate concentration in the water from organically managed fields is almost always less than the maximum of 50mg/l required by the EU Directive. The mean concentration from conventional wheat in nearby Nitrate Sensitive Areas was observed to be three to 20 times greater than that from organic wheat. Nitrate leaching to water will not be controlled by the implemented UK Action Plans. Nitrate leaching is a 'whole system' problem which requires a holistic solution. Although substantial effort has been directed towards encouraging a holistic approach, including the implementation of organic systems for nitrate protection, little progress has been made in achieving this in the UK.

Kristensen, L., Stopes, C., Kolster, P., Granstedt, A. (1995): Nitrogen leaching in ecological agriculture: Summary and Recommendations. In: Kristensen, L. (ed.) Nitrogen leaching in ecological agriculture. Biological Agriculture and Horticulture, vol. 11, 1-4 p. 331-340