FARMING MATTERS: A smelly time of year as muck goes on land

Manure heap. Picture copyright Heather Jan Brunt
Manure heap. Picture copyright Heather Jan Brunt

The early spring muck spreading season is upon us. Muck spreading has been an integral part of farming and food production for centuries but there is no way of avoiding the downside - it smells!

The basic principal is simple: manures and composted materials are returned to the soil to add fertility, improve soil structure and to grow new crops. It’s the earliest form of recycling.

Before the advent of artificial fertilisers every farm had livestock of some form or other with one of the key reasons being the need to produce manure to feed the soil and grow crops.

Farms are more specialised now but the manures are still produced and have to go back to the land albeit often on a different farm from where the manure emanates from. The application of all types of manures is an essential way of protecting and maintaining the health and fertility of our soils now and for generations to come.

Isobel Bretherton, National Farmers Union south east spokeswoman, said: “Whilst muck spreading and the odours that go with it will always be part and parcel of rural life, we as farmers must do everything we can to minimise the impact.

“Let’s be honest, we can’t stop the smells but we do try and be as considerate as possible towards our neighbours.

“At the same time we are talking about the working farms that produce the food we all eat - it doesn’t magically appear on the supermarket shelf.

“When farmers spread manures etc we, at the NFU, expect them to abide by our code of practice which advises that manures should be incorporated into the soil (by ploughing or cultivations) within 24 hours of spreading in order to reduce odours.

“The only exception to this rule is green waste compost for which there is less urgency due to the lack of odour and AD digestate which is, uniquely, in a liquid form and can be injected straight into the soil.”

All farms, conventional or organic, will be spreading manure this spring.