Media release

Media release: N-cap deadline for farmers next month

Wednesday 22 June 2022

The Otago Regional Council is reminding Southern dairy farmers the deadline for their inaugural report on their use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is due on 31 July.

New rules came into effect in July last year, known as N-cap, where annual usage of synthetic nitrogen must not exceed 190 kilogrammes per hectare; averaged across farmers’ grazed land areas.

Farmers have options in how to report, either using the tools provided by their suppliers, including Ballance and Ravensdown to collate the N-cap data, or similar tools soon available from regional councils across the country.


Contact your fertiliser company

The ORC is encouraging farmers to first make contact with their fertiliser companies as a number of those companies have been working with the Regional Council Sector Groups to directly transfer data.

ORC’s Manager Regulatory Data and Systems Simon Wilson says the 190 kilogramme nitrogen cap was introduced as part of the Government’s National Environmental Standards for Freshwater, covering activities which could pose a risk to freshwater ecosystems.

The ORC will have an on-line Regional Sector tool in place before the deadline, and in the meantime any questions can be directed to the ORC’s Compliance team, Wilson says.

Dairy farmers should note that the N-cap reporting period for supplying similar data to their respective milking companies will vary.


Ministry guidelines

The Ministry for the Environment guidelines describe synthetic nitrogen fertiliser as any solid or liquid substance which is more than 5% nitrogen by dry weight and applied to land as a source of nitrogen nutrition for plants. Examples include manufactured urea, diammonium phosphate and sulphate of ammonia.

Farmers are being told if their nutrient budget shows that they will exceed 190 kilogrammes per hectare, they must either reduce their use or apply for a non-complying activity consent from the regional council.

The Ministry says the cap only covers synthetic nitrogen applied to vegetation which will be grazed. This includes crops which are temporarily grazed before being harvested, such as some silage, hay, cut-and-carry forage, horticulture and forestry.


Information needed if reporting N-cap directly to a regional council

  • The total land area of farm in hectares; total area used for grazed land split into grazed forage crops, grazed non-forage crops and un-grazed land
  • How many kilogrammes of nitrogen fertiliser applied for each land use category
  • The name/s of the fertiliser applied; including its nitrogen percentage, for each land use category
  • Your Dairy Supply Number and New Zealand Business Number; check whether you have one, or apply for one.