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N190 Nitrogen Cap FAQs


Frequently asked questions regarding the new nitrogen cap rules.

What is the 190kg N/ha/yr Cap?

It is a maximum limit of synthetic nitrogen that can be applied to pastoral land as a permitted activity. It only applies to synthetic nitrogen (i.e. the nitrogen content of the synthetic fertiliser whether all nitrogen or as a combination of nutrients) where the dry weight is more than 5% nitrogen. However, where manufactured and biological nitrogen fertilisers are mixed together, and their combined nitrogen content comes to more than 5% of their dry weight, they become synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and are covered by the nitrogen cap.

When does the 190kg N/ha/yr cap limit apply?

The 190kg N/ha/yr cap limit applies for each year from 1 July to the following 30 June. 

Which farms does this apply to?

All farms 20 hectares and larger that have any grazed land, regardless of:

  • The type of plant grazed - whether permanent pasture or annual crops.
  • The type of grazing animal - whether cattle, sheep, pigs, deer, poultry, goats, horses, etc.
  • The duration of the grazing - whether it is for a few days or the whole year.

What land does the N190 cap apply to?

  • Each individual hectare of grazed pasture has a cap of 190kg/N/ha.
  • All grazed land on farm including grazed forage crops and harvest crops must average 190kg/ha/N for each contiguous landholding.

Do I have to report my nitrogen use to council?

Currently only dairy farms must report their nitrogen use to council however the rules still apply to all farm types.

What is a contiguous landholding?

A contiguous landholding is any block of connected land belonging to a farming operation. If a farm has several unconnected blocks, separated by land not belonging to the farm, each block is a separate contiguous landholding. Blocks separated by roads, rail or waterways such as rivers and creeks are still classified as contiguous. 

What is a land category?

To report your nitrogen usage to council, your landholding needs to be split into land categories.  There are two overarching categories, grazed land and ungrazed land. All grazed land on the dairy is subject to the 190kg/ha nitrogen cap. Grazed land is split into three land categories.

  • Grazed Pasture - All grazed grassland not intended for harvest. Grazed pasture has an nitrogen cap of 190kg/ha
  • Grazed Forage Crops - Annual forage crops not intended for harvest.  Forage crops have no nitrogen cap but are included in the grazed land where average N applied must be 190kg/ha or less. 
  • Grazed Harvest Crops - Intermittently grazed crops that are intended for harvest (may include grains, grasses,trees). Harvest crops where stubble only is grazed are classified as ungrazed land. Grazed harvest crops have no nitrogen cap but are included in the grazed land where average N applied must be 190kg/ha or less.

Ungrazed land refers to land that is used for purposes other than grazing for all or part of the year.  This includes laneways, dairy sheds and ungrazed harvest crops. Nitrogen applied to ungrazed land is not capped and is not included in the average nitrogen calculation for the landholding. Although ungrazed land is not included in the cap, all nitrogen use on the contiguous landholding must be reported.

What if my paddocks are in different land categories during the year?

Paddocks on the farm can be classified in different land categories during the year.  For example if a paddock is used for both grazing and silage/baleage/hay, it is classified as pasture when grazed, and as ungrazed land once grazing has stopped until harvest. 

When reporting, if a paddock is in forage crop for at any point of the year in conjunction with grazed pasture or grazed harvest crops then the nitrogen applications will all be reported under the grazed forage crop category regardless of land category. Ungrazed land will always remain outside of the grazed land calculations.  

I already give my nitrogen use to my dairy company, do I still need to supply to council?

Yes, the information required under the legislation is different from the information you supply to your dairy company.  Using HawkEye you can easily create the correct reports needed for council. 

When do I have to report to council?

Your nitrogen use information is due to council by the 31st July for the previous reporting year. For the 2021/22 reporting year, no action relating to the submission of data will be taken by regional or unitary councils in the period after 31 July 2022 until the end of October 2022

When will the national reporting systems be available ?

The national reporting tools are now live.  This will allow you to submit via HawkEye electronically to council once you have approved the data. The intent was to have these ready by the 31st of July however development has taken longer than expected which has caused the delay.  If you do not want to use HawkEye to submit your nitrogen report. You will be able to enter your data via the regional sectors N-Cap web portal. 

Read more about getting ready for nitrogen cap reporting here.

What are my options if I don't want to/can't use an online tool for recording?

A calculation spreadsheet can be used to record nitrogen use and is available from your council. If a farm owner wishes to, they can provide information directly to their regional council using this manual form however this approach is not encouraged.

I don’t have an NZBN (NZ Business number) what do I do?

  • Go to
  • If you are a company, you would have automatically been assigned a number.  You can search by your company name to find your number.
  • If you do not have a number, go to or click Get an NZBN on the website.
  • Click on the relevant link to start your application.
  • Applying for an NZBN is free.

What is in my report to council?

After creating your landholding(s) and assigning your land categories, you can create your nitrogen use reports ready to provide to your local regional council. There are three sections to the report that is sent:

  • Nitrogen report
    This will show the total nitrogen applied in kg and the average nitrogen applied across all land categories as well as an average across the total grazed land area. The information to be provided to council will include the grazed land, grazed forage, grazed non-forage and ungrazed land nitrogen figures.
  • Product application report
    This comprises a list of products applied, their N% and the dates applied.
  • Sales report
    This comprises a list of all N based purchases made on your Ravensdown account. Your purchases do not need to exactly match your applications as there may be purchases for outside the dairy or for multiple farms on the same account or even another fertiliser supplier.

Note that no farm mapping or proof of placement data is sent to council, only the information as above.

Do I need to provide fertiliser receipts when I submit my nitrogen application information?

You are not required to provide fertiliser receipts, but it is a good idea to keep the physical receipts of purchase on file, so they are available if there is any query by your council.

I‘ve split the fertiliser purchase with another person/business – what do I do about these applications and purchases?

Sometimes fertiliser costs can be shared by a farm owner and sharemilker, either by splitting an invoice for payment or each buying independently for the same property. The information needed to meet the council and MfE requirements is the application rate of synthetic nitrogen on pastoral land, regardless of the terms of purchase or payment.
You should record the application rates for all synthetic nitrogen fertiliser used on the grazed area; this should be recorded only once for each contiguous landholding. You can keep the physical receipts of purchase on file, so it is available if there is any query by your council. This would also be the case where purchases have been made from another company. 

You can manually enter purchases via the sales report and these will flow through to the report sent to council via HawkEye. 

Learn More About

Getting Ready for 190 Nitrogen Cap Reporting


With new nitrogen limits on farm, recording both your fertiliser and land use is vital for compliance.  Get ready for reporting by utilising HawkEye. 

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Nitrogen reporting quick guide


Your quick guide to using HawkEye for your nitrogen cap reporting.

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N190 Landholdings


Create your landholdings for nitrogen cap reporting easily with HawkEye. 

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N190 Land Categories


Make running your nitrogen report a breeze by defining your land use in HawkEye. 

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