The UK Government has launched a consultation on reducing ammonia emissions from the use of solid urea fertilisers used for growing plants and crops.
Ammonia emissions are harmful to natural habitats and rivers and lakes as well as to human health, with 87% of the nation’s ammonia emissions coming from farming.
The government has set a target to reduce ammonia emissions by 8% by 2020 compared to levels from 2005 and 16% by 2030.
Taking action on solid urea fertilisers has the potential to reduce pollution caused by ammonia reacting with other pollutants to form particulate matter (PM2.5), which is harmful to cardiovascular and respiratory health, in addition to reducing the impact on water quality.
It will also significantly reduce nitrogen deposition to land and in turn help reduce damage to peat bogs, which are an important carbon sink, thereby helping to tackle climate change.
The government’s proposals include a total ban on solid urea fertilisers, which would achieve around 31% of the ammonia reduction target by 2030.
In addition, it is proposing a requirement to stabilise solid urea fertilisers with the addition of a urease inhibitor, a chemical that helps slow the conversion of urea to ammonium and restrict the spreading of solid urea fertilisers so they can only be used from 15th January to 31st March.
The consultation, which is open until 26th January 2021, supports the government’s 25-Year Environment Plan, which has committed to restoring 75% of protected habitats to favourable conditions.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Ammonia emissions from agriculture are causing harm to sensitive and important habitats by making soils more acidic which damages the growth of some plant species, impacting on biodiversity. They are also harmful to human health, and we welcome views on how we can address their use in agriculture so that we can all breathe cleaner air.
“Any changes will need to be made in a way that is realistic and achievable for farmers but which help us to achieve our ambitious targets for better air quality. We are committed to working with farmers to help them do this.
“This will build on the comprehensive action we are already taking to tackle air pollution – with emissions of fine particulate matter down by 9% since 2010 and £3.8 billion invested in ensuring our air is the cleanest in decades.”