How the Nutrient Management Act Applies to Non-Agricultural Source Material

What is the Nutrient Management Act?

The Nutrient Management Act (NMA) outlines its purpose “to provide for the management of materials containing nutrients in ways that will enhance protection of the natural environment and provide a sustainable future for agricultural operations and rural development.”

The are two key things to note, protect the environment, and sustain agriculture.  The act and the associated regulations then proceed to lay the foundation, the how, where, when, what, and who to obtain those two goals.

What is non-agricultural source material, or NASM?

The Nutrient Management Act  provides a lot of detailed description regarding what qualifies NASM along with specifications, sampling requirements, and a defined beneficial use requirement for NASM. As a rule of thumb any material from a non-agricultural source that can provide a benefit to the soil or crop in a field is a NASM.  If the intent is to use a non-agricultural source material on agricultural soil it must be shown to provide some benefit. This could be as a nutrient source or as a soil conditioner (reducing pH, adding organic matter).    Once a benefit is established then the NASM must pass additional quality criteria which is typically a sample analysis demonstrating it’s benefit and conversely lack of detriment. Depending on its source the NASM criteria varies.

Generally the source of the NASM will place it into one of three categories:

  1. Category– Unprocessed Plant Material (eg. Vegetable peels, vegetable washwater that contains food grade cleaners, etc.)
  2. Category – Processed Plant Material (eg. food waste, Bakery Waste)
  3. Category- Anything not found in category 1 or 2, including animal based material (eg. meat processing plant waste, municipal biosolids)

Depending on the category of the material different use restrictions  are applied, such as timing of application, application rate, storage, approvals required etc.

The NMA then proceeds to covers the remaining aspects of NASM use:

  • Who can spread (license requirements)
  • When the material can be spread (time of year)
  • Where the NASM can be spread (setbacks from sensitive features)
  • How the NASM must be spread (injection, irrigation).

In this way the Nutrient Management Act covers all aspect of NASM use, from its generation to its final use on agricultural land. Once the who, when, where, and how the Nutrient Management Act applies to NASM is covered, farmers must understand how it affects them.

Farming Using NASM

Farmers using NASM need to be aware of the requirements under the Nutrient Management Act. They will be held responsible for ensuring NASM is applied when beneficial for crop production, must comply with any waiting periods between application and harvesting or grazing, and use best practices to optimize benefits and minimize environmental risk. Depending on the NASM being used they may be required to obtain an approval from OMAFRA prior to incorporating NASM into their Nutrient Management Strategy.

NASM can provide many benefits beyond those of commercial fertilizer. The addition of organic matter enhances soil structure, moisture retention and permeability while reducing erosion potential.  NASMs typically also provide micro nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and copper, in addition to the macro nutrients required for plant growth.  The sequestering of carbon in the organic material into the soil also helps reduce GHGs.

Interested in receiving NASM or have a NASM that you are thinking of using on your farm. Our staff have extensive experience obtaining NASM plans. We can evaluate the benefits with you and assist in obtaining any necessary approvals for your NASM use. We can also help with the field spreading and reporting required. Visit the land application page to contact us. Or download the Checklist to determine the best solution to managing your Biosolids.


Posted in Land Application.