Greening Rules of the Basic Payment Scheme

Greening continues to be a requirement for many farmers with arable land claiming Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements.  Full details of the current Greening rules can be found in the BPS guidance on the GOV.UK website.  The below text briefly summarises parts of the Greening requirements.

The Greening rules form part of the BPS, alongside other elements of the scheme such as Cross Compliance. Greening relates specifically to arable land and is not applicable to certified organic land. If you are a tenant with the land at your disposal on 15th May, the Greening rules are likely applicable to you, rather than your landlord.

The three Greening rules are the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) rules, Crop Diversification rules and the Permanent Grassland rule. When establishing whether these conditions are applicable to you and your farm, it is necessary to calculate the total area of arable land on the farm. Remember that, in BPS terms, both fallow land and temporary grassland (that is land down to grassland for less than five years) is classified as arable land. Maize also counts as an arable crop. Defra have produced a workbook to help you calculate your greening requirements.

Ecological Focus Areas

In general, if more than 15ha of the farm is classified as arable, you are required to manage an equivalent of 5% of the arable land as an EFAs. There are a couple of exemptions that may apply if a significant area of the farm is down to temporary grassland and fallow, see page 42 of the BPS 2017 handbook

There are six types of EFA: hedges, fallow land, buffer strips, nitrogen-fixing crops and cover/catch crops, all of which need to be annually declared on your BPS application form. Different EFAs contribute to a greater or lesser extent towards your EFA target; for example, 1ha of cover crop equates to 0.3ha of EFA, whereas 1ha of fallow land counts as 1ha of EFA.

Fallow land has, perhaps, the greatest scope to benefit wildlife, particularly if you grow wildlife crops on the fallow land, such as wild bird seed mix or nectar flower mix. Hedges are arguably the easiest means of meeting your EFA target; to comply with Greening rules you simply have to follow the BPS Cross Compliance conditions relating to hedges, for example not cutting hedges between 1st March and 31st August. Agri-environment scheme options can also be used to meet your EFA requirements but this is likely to result in a reduction in your stewardship scheme payments.

More details on the different types of EFA, the related management requirements and the periods these requirements apply can be provided by your FWAG SW advisor.

Crop Diversification rules

The crop diversification rules are likely to apply to you if you farm 10ha or more of arable land. Similar to EFAs, there are several exemptions that apply if a significant proportion of your arable land is temporary grassland or fallow, see page 38 of the BPS 2017 handbook.

If 10ha to 30ha of the farm is in arable you are required to grow two different crops. If more than 30ha of the farm is arable you are required to grow three different crops. Both temporary grassland and fallow count as different arable crops as do some spring and winter crops, for example spring barley and winter barley are regarded as different arable crops.

Permanent Grassland

If the area of permanent grassland relative to the total available agricultural land falls by more than 5% then the RPA may write to farmers requiring them to reinstate it. It may also result in further restrictions on the ploughing of grassland. This relates to grassland defined as permanent grassland under the BPS rules i.e. has not be ploughed for more than 5 years.

Under the permanent grassland rule any permanent grassland in areas covered by the Wild Birds and/or Habitats Directive (Natura 2000) must not be ploughed, these areas are designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or Special Protection Areas (SPAs) they are often also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
You can check if any of your land is at: http://magic.defra.gov.uk/
For any other permanent grassland, a screening decision from Natural England is required before ploughing up or improving land which hasn’t been cultivated for 15 years, or which is semi-natural grassland (or another semi-natural area).

For more details on Greening please contact your FWAG SW advisor or see the full guidance on the GOV.UK website.