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The Rural Stewardship Scheme 2005

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The Rural Stewardship Scheme

3 rural stewardship scheme management options

Eligibility criteria and management requirements for individual scheme options

This Section describes, for each option, the land that is eligible and the management requirements you must follow in order to receive assistance under the Scheme. These requirements represent the minimum that have to be met and where additional measures have been identified as being necessary to achieve the environmental objectives, details should be given in the Environmental Audit. There is some flexibility in the requirements for those options where there is a choice of grazing and cutting dates, which must also be specified in the Environmental Audit.

Guidance on the calculation of stocking densities is given in Annex A of the Environmental Audit.

Management requirements for all options apply from the date of entry into the Scheme and any works necessary to fulfil the management requirements of an option must be undertaken at the relevant time during the first Scheme year.

Before submitting an application, please think through carefully all aspects of your RSS proposals and how they fit into your farm or croft business. This is particularly important because the RSS does not permit variations to plans after approval and any breach of your agreement may lead to the imposition of penalties as described in Part 1 Section 8.

If you are unable to fulfil any of the requirements during your participation in the Scheme, you must notify your local SEERAD office immediately in writing.

photo

Photo: © Kilmartin House Trust

Prescriptions predominantly for bird life

Lapwing (peewit, teuchit)

box 3.1

Lapwing

Lapwing in grass
Photo: Chris Gomershall
(RSPB Images)

The lapwing is a familiar bird on Scotland's farmland and shoreline. However, its population in Scotland has declined and its distribution across the country has contracted in recent years.

Lapwings can nest on a variety of agricultural systems - their main requirement being short vegetation and/or bare ground. Within arable systems, lapwings will nest in a field that is either in a spring-sown crop or in stubble, avoiding fields that were sown in autumn where the crop is tall. Lapwings may also nest on regenerating set-aside in its first year, before the cover grows too tall. On grasslands, lapwings nest on fields with short vegetation and in damp conditions.

Chicks require short vegetation in which to feed. Therefore, as crops grow taller, chicks will move to feed in more open areas nearby - grass fields, fodder crops and grazed grassland. In many areas, damp grassland can be a very productive invertebrate habitat and important for chick rearing.

Prescription 2 - the Management of Open Grazed Grassland for Birds and Prescription 5 - the Management of Wet Grassland for Waders will ensure provision of suitable conditions for nesting and chick rearing. Prescription 25 - the Introduction or Retention of Extensive Cropping will provide suitable feeding areas for this bird.

In winter, Scottish lapwings move south and west, for example to Ireland. Those birds found overwintering in Scotland probably breed in Scandinavia. These lapwings feed on both arable and pasture fields, where the diet comprises mainly earthworms and cranefly larvae.

1. Extensive Management of Mown Grassland for Birds

Aim: To encourage the management of hay and silage fields for the protection of ground nesting birds, their eggs and fledglings.

Some Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species that may benefit: Corn bunting, Skylark, Grey partridge, and Brown hare.

Other important (bird) species that may benefit: Lapwing, Curlew, Yellowhammer and Twite.

Eligible sites: A field used for growing an extensive crop of hay or silage.

Management Requirements:

  • The field must not be rolled, harrowed or grazed between 15 March and 30 June or until the crop has been secured, whichever is the later.
  • Mowing, or the reintroduction of grazing, must not take place before 1 July.
  • To minimise the risk of damage to young birds, hay and silage must be cut in accordance with scheme guidance.
  • Artificial fertiliser must not be applied to the field before 15 May, or 1 June where later-nesting ground-nesting birds and young may be found. Farmyard manure (FYM) and slurry must not be applied between 28 February and 15 May, or 1 June where later-nesting ground-nesting birds and young may be found.
  • Leave a strip of uncut grass 2m wide around the field boundary. Pesticides and herbicides may be applied to this strip only with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers.

Also...

  • The same field need not be chosen each year where an applicant rotates his winter keep production around his grassland area, but SEERAD need to be given details at application stage of the fields to be rotated, their locations and areas. If, during the lifetime of the plan, a variation to the approved rotation is agreed, the area upon which the annual management payment is calculated will be restricted to either that originally approved or the revised figure, whichever is lower.
  • This prescription cannot be applied to fields in the year in which spring-sown grass is being established, as in these circumstances there will be limited grassland cover in the early part of the year.
  • As the management required involves the late cutting of the crop, grass fields receiving substantial applications of fertiliser or slurry will not be suited to this management.
  • After mowing, the uncut strip must be left intact for at least one month.
  • Where corncrakes are likely to be present, there is a presumption that Prescriptions 3 and 4 will be adopted.

Small seed-eating birds

box 3.2

Linnet

Linnet perched on gorse
Photo: Chris Gomershall
(RSPB Images)

These species include some of our most familiar and colourful birds, like chaffinch and goldfinch, of which healthy populations survive in Scotland. For several species, however, there has been some concern over their decline. Amongst these are linnet, twite, tree sparrow, yellowhammer, corn bunting, reed bunting and skylark.

These birds flock together over suitable feeding habitats in winter, and disperse to breeding habitats in the spring. Farmers and crofters play a vital role in caring for these species, as all are dependent on farmland for all or part of the year. They require a range of nesting sites and the Rural Stewardship Scheme can assist in providing these.

  • linnets and yellowhammers are to be found typically on farmland areas with hedges and scrub. They nest in scrub, hedges, hedge bases, long grass or low trees (Prescriptions 23, 24, 28 and 29);
  • reed buntings are to be found typically on farmland with ditches and reed-fringed wetlands: they often nest along ditches in long grass; in some areas they nest in crops (Prescription 18).
  • skylarks and twite are typical of more open farmland landscapes, and both species also occur in upland areas:
    • skylarks on lowland farmland nest in open crop/grass fields, well away from tall trees or hedges, but avoid short, tightly grazed grass (Prescriptions 2, 8, 21, 22, 25 & 26). Nests in winter-sown crops are often deserted as crops grow tall. Tramlines in spring-sown crops are favoured nesting and foraging areas. Set-aside can also provide good nesting opportunities.
    • twite usually nest in moorland or bracken patches, often on steep ground, adjoining farmland or croftland with abundant weeds.

Flock of feeding finches
Photo: Chris Knights (RSPB Images)

In the winter, all of these species feed on seeds, including cereal grains, grass and weed seeds. Skylarks take a proportion of leaf material from crops or weeds. Cereal grains are the main winter food for only a few species: others depend heavily on seeds of broad-leaved and grass weeds, or oilseed rape. Unharvested crops (Prescription 28) and set-aside will assist with over-winter survival, especially if there are weeds.

In summer, most species feed their young on invertebrates, with particularly important insect groups being weevils, spiders, grasshoppers, craneflies and sawflies. These invertebrates are often dependent on farmland weeds for their existence. Linnet and twite feed their young on weed or unripe oilseed rape seeds. Given appropriate management, RSS can provide summer feeding opportunities - Prescriptions 2, 6, 8, 21, 22, 25 & 26.