Nutrient management planning

The Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM Code) is phasing in nutrient management planning requirements for vulnerable aquifer recharge areas and phosphorus-affected areas. Nutrient management planning helps to prevent water contamination in high-risk areas by ensuring that nutrients (for example, commercial fertilizer or manure) are not being applied in excess of crop needs.

When the AEM Code requires a nutrient management plan

A nutrient management plan (NMP) is required for agricultural operations operating in vulnerable aquifer recharge areas or phosphorous-affected areas where:

  • the agricultural land base is a total of five hectares or more
  • nutrient sources are applied to the land
  • soils test results are at or over the following thresholds:
    • in vulnerable aquifer recharge areas, ≥100 kg post-harvest nitrate/ha
    • in phosphorus-affected areas, ≥200 ppm phosphorus

The area and type of operation are 'phased-in' according to the schedule in the AEM Code (see Table below).

An NMP must be prepared by a qualified professional (QP) or experienced person (EP) who has successfully completed an approved course in nutrient management planning. Read about soil nutrient testing, what an NMP is and how they are prepared.

Nutrient Management Plans (NMP) are good for up to five years. If there is a significant change to the agricultural operation or nutrient management, an NMP must be revised. If an agricultural operation still meets the conditions listed above after five years, a new NMP must be prepared and implemented.    

Nutrient management plan phase-in schedule

If you meet all conditions listed above, the requirement to have an NMP is being phased-in over time based on your location and type of operation, as shown in the table below. Alternatively, you can consult the interactive map

Nutrient Management Implementation Schedule
Requirement for NMP effective on Growing season for implementing NMP High-Risk Area Type of Operation Soil Test
Result Threshold
February 28, 2019 Spring 2020 onward Hullcar aquifers recharge area (Map B1) All agricultural operations ≥ 5 ha ≥ 100 kg N/ha
July 15, 2020 Spring 2021 onward

Vulnerable aquifer recharge areas (Map B1, adding Map B2):

  • Abbotsford
  • Cobble Hill
  • Langley
  • Grand Forks
  • Osoyoos
  • Spallumcheen
Livestock and poultry operations ≥ 5 ha with five animal units (AU)* or more ≥ 100 kg N/ha
July 15, 2021 Spring 2022 onward

Vulnerable aquifer recharge areas (Maps B1, B2, adding Map B3):

  • Chilliwack
  • Coldstream
  • Lumby
  • Okanagan Falls
  • Oliver
  • Penticton
  • Sicamous
  • Sunnybrae
  • Tappen
Livestock and poultry operations ≥ 5 ha with five AU or more ≥ 100 kg N/ha
July 15, 2023 Spring 2024 onward

All vulnerable aquifer recharge areas (Maps B1, B2, B3 adding Map B4):

  • Cranbrook
  • Creston
  • Montrose
  • Nakusp
  • Williams Lake
Livestock and poultry operations ≥ 5 ha with any number of AUs ≥ 100 kg N/ha
Non-livestock and non-poultry operations (horticultural operations) ≥ 30 ha ≥ 100 kg N/ha
July 15, 2024 Spring 2025 onward All vulnerable aquifer recharge areas (Maps B1 - B4) All agricultural operations ≥ 5 ha ≥ 100 kg N/ha
All Phosphorus-affected areas (Maps A1 - A3) ≥ 200 ppm P
July 15, 2026 Spring 2027 onward  All phosphorus-affected areas with a lowered threshold All agricultural operations ≥ 5 ha ≥ 100 ppm P

Please note: *one animal unit (AU) equals 455 kg livestock or poultry; five AUs are equal to 2,275 kg of livestock or poultry or any combination of livestock and poultry that equals to 2,275 kg.

Nutrient Application Plans

As of July 15, 2025, agricultural operations that are not in vulnerable aquifer recharge areas or phosphorus-affected areas but have very high soil test results (for example, ≥ 150 kg N/ha or 300 ppm phosphorus), must prepare a nutrient application plan. This may be self-prepared and is intended to document the process used to calculate its nutrient application rates, with the goal of reducing soil nutrient levels.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is guidance only. Please refer to the Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management for specific regulatory requirements.