Late-harvested crops, including maize, beet and main-crop potatoes, require a 6m buffer from watercourses.

As farmers continue to try to plant these crops, they should keep this in mind.

This buffer is required under nitrates regulations and is different to the 3m buffer required under CAP conditionality.

It should be noted that the 3m uncultivated buffer required under CAP beside a watercourse is still required, but should be extended to 6m where a late-harvested crop is planted.


The nitrates regulations also say late-harvested spring cereal crops should have a 6m buffer, but farmers will be hoping to harvest all cereals before this time and will not be able to know if, for example, weather will prevent them from harvesting, so this is really very hard to implement.

A 4m buffer is required beside a watercourse where non-grass forage crops are going to be grazed.

Farmers should remember that fertiliser and sprays cannot be applied within 3m of a drain which is not marked as a water course.

A crop can be planted, but not treated, so this will cause issues with weeds.

Land loss

The buffers result in large amounts of land leaving production. For example, the 3m buffer on a 4ha (10ac) field with a watercourse along two sides, each 200m long, results in 1,200m2 leaving production. That is 12% of 1ha or one-third of an acre.

Where that buffer needs to increase to 6m it results in 2,400m2 leaving production. That is 24% of 1ha or two-thirds of an acre.


Identifying the critical source area which could be resulting in pollution to a watercourse would make much more sense and the buffer could then be focused on the area where pollution enters the water.