Arable farmers opposing new rules

Nigel Miller NFU
Nigel Miller NFU

Arable farmers are voicing strong opposition to new Scottish Government rules on growing nitrogen fixing crops.

NFU Scotland said Holyrood wants farmers to plant two different nitrogen fixing crops in each EFA (Ecological Focus Area) area, harvest those crops after August 1 each year and maintain field margins around them.

In England growers can plant the nitrogen fixing plants - examples include soybeans, alfalfa and clover - with no management restrictions other than meeting GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions) requirements.

Union president, Borders farmer Nigel Miller said: “These prescriptions make the growing of nitrogen fixing crops a non-starter on many farms and therefore severely limits the EFA options for Scottish growers.

“EFA requirements were always going to pose a challenge for Scotland’s productive arable sector but compliance also flows onto many livestock and dairy units where arable crops and temporary grass are grown and things like wholecrop form part of the feeding regime.

“The EU agreement last year allowed member states and regions to have some flexibility in deciding which EFA options were most appropriate and that these could be designed to be viable for most parts. Europe recognised the value of nitrogen fixing crops, not only in supporting pollinators but in minimising the use of artificial fertilisers, improving soil structure, benefitting water quality and providing a source of home-grown protein.”