Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser cap: implementation guidance on Essential Freshwater policies and regulations

Guidance for councils, farmers and farm advisors on implementing the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser cap.


What dairy farmers need to know and do: synthetic nitrogen fertiliser cap

What's happening

The synthetic nitrogen fertiliser cap is one of several regulations that aim to reduce the amount of nitrogen in waterways.  It took effect in July 2021.

Why it's needed

Nitrogen is a major pollutant of freshwater.

What you need to do

If you are a dairy farmer, you are required to provide a report by the end of July each year on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use.

You can submit information on your synthetic-nitrogen fertiliser use to your regional council by filling out this webform [Te Uru Kahika website]

Note: You do not need to fill out the webform if you have recorded your synthetic nitrogen fertiliser application through Ballance’s MyBallance app or Ravensdown’s HawkEye app.

For more on environmental matters that affect farming communities see the Rural hub

About the cap

The cap applies to all grazed land (including grass and annual forage crop) except for the grazing of livestock on the stubble of arable crops, with the following conditions.    

  • Each hectare of grass pasture has a limit of 190 kg/ha/yr – no area of pasture can exceed this level without a resource consent.  
  • On land planted with fodder crops, the limit of 190 kg/ha/yr may be exceeded to meet the needs of some types of plants, but the average across the pastoral system must not exceed 190.  

What is required

Affected farm managers need to record or retain from 1 July2021, the following.  

  • The area of land in pastoral land use, including the parts of that land used to grow annual forage crops, and in other uses.
  • The receipts of purchased synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.
  • The types of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser applied and, for each type, the percentage of the nitrogen component by dry weight.
  • The rate at which each type of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser was applied to the land in pastoral land use and, within that land, to the land used to grow annual forage crops and to other land.
  • The dates on which the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser was applied.