About nutrients

“Nutrient” means any material that can be applied to land to improve crops, including:

  • fertilizer
  • manure
  • compost
  • sewage biosolids
  • pulp and paper biosolids

Without proper nutrient management

  • nutrients can be dissolved in soil water and go into surface or ground water by leaching or runoff
  • surface and groundwater can become contaminated
  • on-farm drinking water, community wells and other drinking water sources can be affected
  • valuable nutrients will be lost which may result in reduced crop yields or additional costs for  commercial fertilizers

The law

The management, land application and storage of agricultural source materials (ASM) and non-agricultural source materials (NASM) that are applied to agricultural lands as a nutrient, are regulated under the Nutrient Management Act and O. Reg. 267.

Agricultural source materials include materials generated on farms such as:

  • manure
  • bedding
  • certain washwaters

Non-agricultural source materials are materials generated by non-agricultural operations and include materials such as:

  • sewage biosolids
  • pulp and paper biosolids
  • other residuals and by-products that may be land applied to benefit crop growth

O. Reg. 267 sets out specific requirements including:

  • land application standards such as:
    • maximum application rates
    • minimum separation distances to sensitive receivers such as wells, surface water and groundwater
  • construction and siting requirements for storage of ASM and NASM
  • requirements for the preparation of Nutrient Management Strategies, Nutrient Management Plans and NASM Plans by farms with details of how ASM and NASM will be managed, stored or land applied

Source law

You can find a complete set of rules related to agricultural operations in:

Agricultural environmental officers

Agricultural environmental officers from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change are trained in both environmental management and agricultural practices. An agricultural environmental officer may inspect a farm:

  • to ensure it meets legislative requirements and conditions of approval
  • in response to a complaint, referral, spill or environmental incident
  • as a follow-up for violations


You are encouraged to take reasonable steps to reduce negative effects on the environment or human health from a farm or agricultural operation. You should:

  • check that your operation meets requirements of the law
  • know the contents of your approved nutrient management strategy/plan
  • have a copy or your nutrient management strategy/plan on hand as a guide
  • discuss the strategy/plan and the requirements under the law with your workers
  • update your strategy/plan if there is a significant change in your operations
  • check that all records are complete, accurate and organized
  • have a contingency plan

Prepare a Nutrient Management Plan now


If your farm operation is found to not be complying with the law, agricultural environmental officers work directly with you using a problem-solving approach.

Abatement and enforcement tools can also be used. Serious issues may be referred to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch to investigate and determine if charges should be laid.

Abatement tools include:

  • education and outreach
  • changes to an approval to increase environmental protection
  • voluntary abatement plans

Provincial Officers Orders Enforcement tools include:

  • Provincial Offenses Act Summonses
  • referrals for investigation

For more information on complying with Environmental rules on a farm contact your local Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change District Office.

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Regional and District Offices

Report a spill or environmental emergency

Spills Action Centre

Toll-free: 1-800-268-6060

E-mail: Moe.tips.moe@ontario.ca