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Farmer perspectives and practices regarding water pollution control

Research Funding Body

Scottish Government


A.P. Barnes, J. Willock, C. Hall, L. Toma

Project Objectives

This paper examines whether there is any deviation in perception of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) across farm types and across all four Scottish NVZ’s

Why relevant to improve implementation and uptake of water quality measures?

Previous studies have only examined small samples by a single region or farming type.Similarly, they have not offered any assessment of the practices adopted by farmers within NVZs since the designations. This is crucial to understanding the farmer responses to the regulations


It combines a telephone survey with 184 farmers and a farmer workshop

Key Results

  • This study has found that the majority of farmers had not invested in extra capacity, nor had they transported more slurry off-farm, indicating that the closed period of 1 month had been accommodated by storage facilities in place before 2003. In addition, only a small number of producers had sought support for capital investment for extra storage. This indicates that farmers currently operating within Scottish NVZs had not unduly changed their behaviour to accommodate the greater restrictions imposed after designation.
  • This study has also found negative attitudes towards NVZs, which could be explained by the scepticism exhibited by farmers over the science of the designation itself.
  • A more integrated approach to water management is needed and clear indicators of water quality should be developed. This may start to embed nitrogen saving goals within the farmer’s cultural framework of decision-making and lead to greater adoption of these regulations.
  • There is also a role for the policy-makers in providing clearer information regarding the purpose of the NVZ designations, in particular with the science of the designation. Some effort should be made towards emphasising the links between farming activities and nitrate pollution, any positive impact of the regulations and the science behind the nitrate limits imposed on farmers.



Contact Person

Andrew Barnes

More Information


Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.