German nitrate spreading argument evaporates

European court advisor recommends condemnation over generous nitrogen application limits

A German law transposing the EU's 1991 nitrates directive allows farmers to spread too much manure on their land and should be overturned, a European court of justice advisor said today. Advocate-general Leendert Heelgoed said the rules could harm the environment "more seriously than is strictly necessary".

In his strongly worded opinion, Mr Geelhoed attacks German provisions which he says contravene the directive's limits on manure spreading to combat groundwater pollution by nitrates. These stipulate that in designated nitrate vulnerable zones farmers should not spread more than 170 or 210 kilograms of nitrogen-equivalent per hectare of land per year, depending on soil type.

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