STAFF REPORTER THE Balearic government is banning farmers from using fertilisers until mid January to stop nitrate contamination in underground water supplies, Agricultural Director Antoni Perelló confirmed yesterday.

The areas which will be most affected by the ban will be Inca-Sa Pobla water table, as well as Palma, Ses Salines, Campos and Manacor. These are zones which are apparently most vulnerable to nitrate contamination. Perelló was speaking in the crop growing area of Sa Pobla where he was handing out leaflets explaining what obligations farmers have in relation to the non-use of fertilisers which is a European Union-driven policy.

Perelló said the ban would not interfere with the farmers' agricultural programme but would nurture the traditional planting of crops which do not depend on chemically developed fertilisers. Farmers are bound by law to register the amount of fertilisers they use over a particular area of ground.

The Director said that there are currently no areas of Majorca or Minorca where underground water supplies are suffering from nitrate contamination but explained that it is the aquifers which are located close to farming communities where fertiliser is used which are most prone to pollution. He gave assurances that there would be no risk of drinking supplies being adversely affected.