As fertiliser prices soar, the government says it will pay farmers for sowing plants that can reduce the need artificial fertiliser.

Defra has set out measures to deal with the impact of high gas prices which have left farmers facing rising costs for manufactured fertiliser, due to the process depending on gas, writes Emily Beament, Press Association.

They include further details of the new “sustainable farming incentive” (SFI), part of the post-Brexit payments regime for landowners, which aims to help famers move towards sustainable farming.

The government said it would pay farmers to help with the costs of sowing nitrogen-fixing plants and “green manures” in or ahead of their crops, as a substitute to some of their fertiliser requirements for the coming season.

This will reduce dependence on manufactured fertilisers linked to the price of gas, officials said.

Changes to the use of urea fertiliser that aim to reduce ammonia pollution from farms have been delayed by at least a year, and there will be new standards to limit pollution rather than a ban, to help farmers deal with supply issues.

The government has said it does not intend to ban autumn manure spreading as part of rules to avoid water pollution, and is clarifying guidance on the regulations for spreading muck in the autumn and winter months.

New slurry storage grants will also be available to help farmers build six months of covered storage capacity.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “The significant rise in the cost of fertiliser is a reminder that we need to reduce our dependence on manufacturing processes dependent on gas.

“Many of the challenges we face in agriculture will require a fusion of new technology with conventional principles of good farm husbandry.

“The measures we have announced today are not the whole solution but will help farmers manage their nitrogen needs in the year ahead.”

Defra is also making £20.5million in funding available for research and development to boost productivity and deliver climate-smart and sustainable farming.

Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said: “Some farmers may choose not to spread fertiliser at all this year.

“But if prices continued to stay at this all-time-high then government will need to urgently consider ways of increasing and diversifying domestic fertiliser production.”