The impact of voting to leave the EU on farm payment schemes going forward is yet to be fully understood.
In the short term however, any existing schemes will still need to be managed. Following CAP reforms the Single Payment Scheme for farmers was replaced from 1st January 2015 for a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) This scheme contains mandatory greening requirements, which will account for around 30% of the total payment.
One key aspect of this scheme is the so called ‘3 crop rule’ whereby farmers with more than 30ha of arable land that are not exempt are required to grow at least three different crops with the largest crop not covering more than 75% of that arable land. This has triggered a higher demand for growing pulses, which can also offer an alternative break crop to oilseed rape.
Another key aspect of the scheme is the introduction of Ecological Focus Areas (EFA), which dictates that any farm with over 15ha of arable land that are not exempt must ensure that an area equivalent to 5% of the arable area be EFA. There are five options that can be used in combination to fulfill the EFA area requirement but these options are not all weighted equally whereby some will require a larger or smaller area to count as a hectares worth of EFA. Options are: Hedgerows, Buffer Strips, Fallow, Nitrogen Fixing Crops and Catch/Cover Crops.
Full detailed information on all aspects of the new schemes can be found at www.gov.uk/cap-reform
Cover Crops do not produce a marketable product, they benefit the soil for the succeeding crops and are a good return on investment. They are beneficial to the soil by:
- improving soil health by adding organic matter to the soil
- increasing biological activity
- improving soil structure
- reducing soil erosion and run off
- suppressing weeds and reduces leaching
- increasing the supply of nutrients available to the next crop (particularly by adding nitrogen by fixation)
- nematode control
- counts towards EFA points
Growing a cover crop is a very effective way of controlling nematode populations. Choosing the correct species and variety is key and needs careful planning. Some species of plants such as oil radish and mustard have been specially bred to be resistant to specific nematodes.
A wide range of plant species can be used as green manures. Different crops bring different benefits and the final choice is influenced by many considerations. If the most is to be made of green manuring crops, it is important that they are carefully integrated into the crop rotation and proper attention paid to the crop husbandry.
A very popular green manure crop. Relatively inexpensive and highly versatile cover crop either sown alone or as a companion to other species. It is a fast growing and good weed suppressor. It is ideal for early cover and produces large quantities of biomass although killed off by frost later. It is an excellent scavenger of nitrogen.
FODDER RADISH (OIL RADISH)
Fast growing cover crop, its speed of establishment aids weed suppression. It has a long taproot which will improve the soil structure and also has plenty of foliage that produces a large quantity of organic matter. An excellent nitrogen scavenger.
A particularly deep tap root, which helps to improve soils structure and drainage by drilling down through heavy soils and compacted layers.
Produces large amounts of organic matter and suppresses weeds and is also an excellent nitrogen scavenger to help prevent leaching during winter months.
Fast growing green manure crop with bio fumigation properties, i.e. it suppresses soilborne pests and diseases. It is an easy to establish 50 - 70 day crop that can be sown between April and September. Unlike white mustard, it is winter hardy.
BLACK OATS - AVENA STRIGOSA
A rapid growing leafy cereal crop which has early vigour with good weed suppression. It will produce large amounts of organic matter. Destroy before flowering to prevent self-seeding. Not winter hardy.
Green manure mixtures have been specially formulated to help you achieve the best from your soil by protecting and improving soil fertility and health between cash crops. Combining different species into the mixtures can extend the function of the mixture.
Species that tend to be included in cover mixes;
- White mustard
- Tillage radish
- Fodder radish
- Brown mustard
- Black oats
- Red Clover
- White Clover
To count as an EFA in 2020, catch crops must be established by 20 August 2020 and retained until at least 14 October 2020.
To count as an EFA in 2020, cover crops must be established by 1 October 2020 and retained until at least 15 January 2021.
Eligible catch/cover crops are:
- Cereal; Rye Barley Oats
- Non Cereal; Vetch Phacelia Mustard Lucerne Oilseed Radish
Grass is also permissible as long as it was undersown in the previous crop and is visible and dense enough to cover the ground by the start of the catch crop or cover crop period.