Making the cap fit

Synthetic nitrogen use must be recorded and reported from the end of June. By Anne Lee.

DAIRY FARMERS MUST REPORT this season’s synthetic nitrogen (N) use for each paddock by the end of June this year.

Nationally the 190kg N/ha/year cap rule came into force last season but the national reporting tool was not ready in July.

In Canterbury, where synthetic nitrogen use has been relatively high compared with other regions, the regional council, Environment Canterbury (Ecan)has been working with farmers, taking an educational approach.

Ecan farming land use regional implementation leader Tami Woods says there are three ways dairy farmers can report their synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use numbers:

  • through the National online reporting tool,
  • MyBallance (Ballance)
  • Hawkeye (Ravensdown).

The national online reporting tool has been developed through a joint effort by government and regional councils, while the main two fertiliser suppliers each have a system that can report data to the regional council via the national tool.

“We ask dairy farmers to report at the end of each July-June season.

“Our synthetic nitrogen use webpage ( contains detail about what specific information dairy farmers will need to report, including:

  • contact information,
  • farm land use information,
  • synthetic nitrogen fertiliser concentration,
  • application dates
  • application rates.

“The webpage also contains a nitrogen use calculator to aid with this.

“Farm managers must also record and retain the receipts of purchased synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, so we can ask for evidence to verify information provided if necessary,” Tami says.

“Dairy farmers were expected to report on this beginning last season.

“Unfortunately, the national reporting tool was not ready in July, so we gave farmers more time to report.

“For this first season, we used an education-first approach.

“We contacted farmers who reported using more than the 190kg/ ha limit, reminding them of that limit, and giving them information on how they can use fertiliser more efficiently and reduce leaching to get the best benefit out of fertiliser applied.”

Tami says the focus is on working with farmers to help them be compliant with these requirements.

But, she warns that farmers who continue to not report their synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use, or continue to be over the limit, face compliance action, which will be done at their expense.

“We will take a risk-based approach to compliance, identifying those whose fertiliser use is likely highest, or those who are in the most sensitive environment – and therefore, whose synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use may have the greatest effect on the environment – and prioritise them for follow up.”

Compliance actions can range from a warning letter, an infringement notice (fine) or an abatement notice, which would require their practice to be stopped immediately.

“We’ve recently launched new guidance on how farmers can reduce nitrogen loss on farm, which can help them use the fertiliser they apply more efficiently.

“We will also be working through media and industry partners to spread the message about synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use limits.

“It’s important to note that the nitrogen application limit applies to all grazed pasture – not just dairy – although only dairy farmers are required to report use to us.”

National Reporting Tool:

New guidance on how farmers can reduce N loss on farm: farmers-hub/gmp/reducing-nitro­gen-loss