Ways to reduce ammonia losses on your farm - and make best use of your nutrients

Last updated: 08 Mar 2018

This spring, CFE is holding 10 workshops to help farmers and advisers get to grips with managing and storing manure, slurry and fertilisers as effectively as possible and raise awareness of ammonia emissions.

CFE has also produced a new short guide to reducing ammonia losses.

Why is ammonia a problem?

Ammonia is a volatile compound of nitrogen released when slurry, manure and nitrogen fertilisers come into contact with air. When ammonia mixes with other pollutants, such as diesel fumes, it forms tiny toxic particles called ‘particulate matter’, which are harmful to health. Ammonia deposition can also lead to soil acidification and excessive nitrogen in sensitive habitats, reducing biodiversity.

Key facts:

88% of UK ammonia emissions come from agriculture

The government has international commitments to reduce ammonia emissions by 8% by 2020 and 16% by 2030, compared to 2005. These targets are unaffected by Brexit.

Nutrient planning

Nutrient management planning can reduce ammonia emissions and save farms money. By matching crop or grass requirements to manure and fertiliser use, over-application can be avoided which has no additional benefits, saving money on bought-in fertiliser costs. Getting the right balance of nutrients also helps to get the best performance from your crop or animals.

Tried & Tested offer free resources to help with nutrient planning, created by the industry, for the industry. Download the resources or order printed copies or pre-loaded memory sticks from www.nutrientmanagement.org.

Measures to reduce ammonia losses

Currently, government is asking farmers to make changes voluntarily. However, significant uptake is required to avoid being forced into a regulated regime. Large, intensive poultry and pig units are already regulated through permit conditions.

To maximise the benefits of your actions, it is important to make changes to reduce ammonia at every stage from feeding through to manure spreading. For example, if you successfully contain ammonia during manure storage, it can then be lost if low-emission spreading techniques are not used.

Measures to consider are:

  • Optimise the dietary protein content of your feeds and match feed to growth/production stages, taking advice from a qualified feed adviser. This ensures efficient use of nutrients and reduces ammonia excreted in slurry.
  • Wash housing and collection points regularly as manures exposed to air emit ammonia.
  • In new buildings, install effective scraper units.
  • Fix rigid, flexible or floating covers to slurry tanks and lagoons to reduce contact with air or consider slurry storage bags. Covering manure heaps with sheeting also helps.
  • Use low-emission spreading techniques: Shallow injector for slurry and urea-based fertilisers, or band spreading (trailing hose or trailing shoe).
  • Incorporate manures to bare soil quickly, ideally within 4 to 6 hours of spreading.
  • Consider products with urease inhibitors or different nitrogen sources i.e. ammonia nitrate.
  • Avoid applying ammonium sulphate on calcareous soils - the high pH increases ammonia emissions.

Interested in learning more?

You are invited to join CFE at one of their 10 free workshops for dairy and livestock farmers this February and March to find out more about nutrient planning, managing manure and slurry, and reducing losses to air and water. To find your nearest event, go to www.cfeonline.org.uk/events.

Download the new CFE guide on reducing ammonia emissions.

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