Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser cap

Three new tools are available for dairy farmers to report the amount of synthetic nitrogen fertilser they are using on pastoral land of 20ha or more.

Regulations introduced in the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 (NES-F) put a synthetic nitrogen fertiliser cap of 190kgN/ha/year and anything above this level requires a resource consent. The regulations, part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms, aim to limit the degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems due to nutrient enrichment and came into effect on 1 July 2021.

The national online tools aim to make it straight-forward for farmers to report their synthetic nitrogen use.

Reporting use of synthetic nitrogen

There are three tools are available to report synthetic nitrogen use:

Ravensdown
www.hawkeye.farm/(external link)  

Ballance:
www.myballance.co.nz(external link)

N-Cap:
https://n-cap.teurukahika.govt.nz(external link)

Farmers who are Ravensdown or Ballance customers can use their tools. All other farmers should use the N-Cap tool. While the rules initially required reporting to be completed by 31 July 2022, the delayed availability of the national tools means that the deadline for submission of data is now 31 October 2022.

As always, our staff are on hand to provide advice and assistance to farmers. Call us on 0800 736 222(external link) or email info@trc.govt.nz

Reporting natural nitrogen use

Dairy farmers who are only using natural nitrogen fertiliser are asked to advise the Council. While the reporting requirement applies to those using synthetic nitrogen, the application of natural nitrogen is a permitted activity, and requires farmers to simply notify the Council(external link).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is synthetic nitrogen?

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is defined in the NES-F as any substance (whether solid or liquid) that is more than 5% nitrogen by weight and is applied to land as a source of nitrogen nutrition for plants. It includes any manufactured urea, diammonium phosphate or sulphate of ammonia. This excludes composts, soil treatments and other fertiliser that is composed of plant or animal waste and is minimally processed.

Who needs to report nitrogen use?

The nitrogen cap applies to all farming types. However, dairy farmers have an additional requirement to report on certain aspects of their nitrogen use by 31 July each year. The person responsible for operating any dairy farm land must provide Council with information that describes fertiliser types, quantities and application dates so that the application rates of nitrogen per hectare per year can be calculated. The Council may recover costs associated with managing information supplied.

Why are the tools only online now?

By working together, the regional sector and the fertiliser industry has ensured that there is a consistent approach to data calculation and submission across the three tools developed to date. While the intent was to have this system ready for 31 July, developing and testing these tools has taken longer than expected.

What happens if the cap is exceeded?

Any farm that exceeds the 190kg N/ha/yr limit will need to put an action plan in place to reduce usage to below the cap, which includes applying for a resource consent.

What is the N-Cap system?

N-Cap is a recording system that requires manual calculation of the same information which goes on the Ravensdown and Ballance websites. It’s a national tool developed by regional councils, the dairy sector, the Ministry for the Environment and fertiliser companies.

What are my options if I am unable to use an online tool for reporting?

The preferred method is to use the new tools but if you are unable to use an online tool get in touch with us and we can provide a manual spreadsheet.

I’ve put my nitrogen use information in via the N-Cap Webform. Do I need to record it again in HawkEye or MyBallance?

No. You only need to enter data through one system. If you choose to record your synthetic nitrogen information in the N-Cap Webform, you do not need to record in HawkEye or MyBallance.

Do farmers need to provide fertiliser receipts?

None of the three systems requires farmers to provide the physical receipts for their purchases.

What should non-dairy farmers report?

The reporting requirement only applies to dairy farmers. If you are a sheep and beef farmer or have a goat, deer or any other type of farm applying synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, you are still required to comply with the regulations but you do not need to report your fertiliser use to the Council.

Scenarios: How the new tools might apply to you

Scenario 1: I’m not a Ravensdown or Ballance customer, what do I do?

Please use the N-Cap system to report your synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use.

Scenario 2: I’m a Ballance or Ravensdown customer and spread my own fertiliser, what do I do?

Please use the Hawkeye and MyBallance tools. 

Scenario 3: I’m busy calving, when does it have to be reported by?

While the rules initially required reporting to be completed by 31 July 2022, delayed availability of the national tools means that the deadline for submission of data is now 31 October 2022.

Scenario 4: I’m not a dairy farmer, what do I have to report?

The reporting requirement only applies to dairy farmers. If you are a sheep and beef farmer or have a goat, deer or any other type of farm applying synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, you are still required to comply with the regulations but you do not need to report your fertiliser use to the Council.

Scenario 5: I’m using natural nitrogen fertiliser, what do I have to report?

The application of natural nitrogen is a permitted activity, and reporting of volume and type isn’t required. Farmers simply need to notify the Council.

Scenario 6: I use a custom fertiliser blend, what do I do?

Ballance customers please use My Ballance to report synthetic custom-blend fertiliser use, and Ravensdown customers, please use Hawkeye. Farmers using custom blends from other suppliers will need to gather details of the blend, and then report using the N-Cap portal.

Scenario 7: I’m a Ravensdown or Balance customer, and I use a spreading contractor.. What do I do?

Ballance customers please use My Ballance to report synthetic fertiliser use, and Ravensdown customers, please use Hawkeye. 

Useful links