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The Rural Stewardship Scheme 2005

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The Rural Stewardship Scheme

Prescriptions for Field Margins and Boundaries

21. Management of Grass Margin or Beetlebank in Arable Fields

Aim: To create strips around or across fields on which insects can over-winter and breed early in the season. This allows them to effect a useful form of biological control by attacking aphid populations in adjacent crops. The strips also provide food and cover for birds.

Some BAP species that may benefit: Grey partridge, Linnet, Bullfinch, Spotted flycatcher, Corn bunting, Purple ramping-fumitory, Cornflower.

Eligible sites: Land forming a strip between 1.5 metres and 6 metres in width around or across an arable field.

Field

Photo: D. Bell - SNH

Management Requirements:

  • On bare land the strip must be established by sowing a suitable mix of grass seed.
  • Fertiliser, slurry or farmyard manure must not be applied to the strips.
  • Scrub control and the use of pesticides may be allowed only with the prior written agreement
    of Scottish Ministers.
  • A sterile strip up to 0.5m in width may be created and maintained by rotavation and herbicide along the inner edge of the grass margin. Such a strip will provide young birds with an area on which to dry out and also act as a buffer preventing the spread of weeds from the grass margin into the crop.
  • Grazing of the grass margin or beetlebank after harvest is permissible, provided the average height of vegetation in the strip is not taken below 100mm.

Also...

  • Any field selected for grass margins or beetlebanks must remain in an arable crop, i.e. cereals, linseeds, oilseed, root crops, fruit crops or protein crops, including vining peas, for the duration of participation in the scheme, to obtain full conservation benefit from this prescription. In a mixed arable situation where a field will be put into grass or a non-eligible crop after 3 years, the beetlebank/margin may be transferred to another eligible field for the remaining 2 years of the scheme, in expectation that this will continue into the second 5-year cycle. Transfer of a beetlebank/grass margin may only be carried out once during the 5-year cycle of the scheme. SEERAD need to be given details at application stage of the beetlebank/grass margins to be 'rotated' in this way, i.e. field identifiers and area measurements.

22. Management of Conservation Headlands

Aim: To leave the headlands of arable fields free from herbicides or insecticides. This will allow the natural development of a varied flora within the headland, which will become a feeding ground and habitat for insects, birds and small mammals.

Some BAP species that may benefit: Grey partridge, Linnet, Bullfinch, Corn bunting.

Eligible sites: Headlands with a minimum width of 6 metres around arable fields on which cereal, linseed, oilseed or protein crops are being grown.

Wild flowers

Wild flowers on conservation headland
Photo:
© The Game Conservancy Trust

Conservation headland

Conservation headland with no application of nitrogenous fertiliser
Photo: Edward Baxter

Management Requirements:

  • Herbicides and insecticides may be applied to the headlands only with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers. Fungicides can be applied without reference to Scottish Ministers.
  • Premium Payment No application of nitrogenous fertiliser to the headland.

Also...

  • The headland does not require to be maintained at the same size or in the same field during the duration of the scheme. SEERAD need to be given details at application stage of the conservation headlands to be 'rotated' in this way, i.e. field identifiers and area measurements. If, during the lifetime of the plan, a different 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 the lower.
  • Conservation headlands can adjoin both autumn and spring sown crops. Conservation headlands adjoining cereals to be harvested for arable silage before the grain is ripe will not be eligible for payment.

23. Management of Extended Hedges

Aim: To create hedges that are wider and taller than normal which, along with the adjacent undisturbed areas, will support a diverse range of plants as well as habitats for invertebrates, birds and small mammals.

Some BAP species that may benefit: Song thrush, Bullfinch, Grey partridge, Purple ramping-fumitory.

Eligible sites: A strip of arable or improved grassland situated alongside an existing or newly created hedge.

Extended Hedge

Extended Hedge
Photo: Derek Robson

Management Requirements:

  • All livestock must be excluded and no arable cultivations may be carried out within a strip extending to at least 3 metres and up to 6 metres from the centre line of the hedge .
  • When the hedge is trimmed, it must not be trimmed again for at least 3 years. Hedges should be trimmed between 1 December and 1 March.
  • The grass in the strip must not be cut, unless with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers.
  • Fertiliser, slurry or farmyard manure must not be applied to the site.
  • Pesticides may be applied only with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers.

Also...

  • Areas receiving management payment under RSS are not eligible for AAPS.
  • Creation of an extended hedge must be undertaken at the relevant time during the first year of participation in the scheme, and must be maintained and managed for a period of not less than 5 years.
  • Consideration should be given to the planting of appropriate native-species trees and shrubs in hedge gaps.
  • Where only one side of the hedgerow is being managed under this prescription, for example roadside hedge, the other side must be cut no more frequently than once a year and between 1 December and 1 March.

Grey Partridge

box 3.15

Grey partridge

Grey partridge
Photo:
© The Game Conservancy Trust

Once a widespread gamebird, the grey partridge population has declined by 80% in the last 30 years; in Scotland it has been lost from a quarter of its previous breeding range.

Grey partridges breed in open farmland with few trees. They favour field margins (Prescription 21) and arable crops with weeds (Prescriptions 22, 25, 26). Grey partridge nest in hedge bottoms (Prescriptions 23, 24), grass banks (Prescription 21), cereal, game cover and nettle beds.

Adults feed on grass, cereal shoots and seeds. Weeds are a vital food source - as plant matter, a source of seeds, and as an insect-rich habitat. Chicks are dependant on insects for the first two weeks after hatching. Herbicides and broad-spectrum insecticides are likely to reduce chick survival.

In winter, weed-rich stubble and fodder crop fields, areas of unharvested crop (Prescription 28), set-aside, game cover and field margins (Prescription 21) provide vital over-wintering food supplies.

24. Management of Hedgerows

Aim: To enhance existing hedgerows, which will in turn provide improved habitats for invertebrates, birds and small mammals.

Some BAP species that may benefit: Song thrush, Bullfinch, Grey partridge.

Eligible sites: Established or beaten up hedge.

Management Requirements:

  • Fill any gaps in the hedge by coppicing, laying or planting.
  • Cut no more frequently than every third year. Hedges should be trimmed between 1 December and 1 March.
  • Pesticides must not be applied within 1 metre of an established hedge. Spot treatment of weeds within 1 metre of any new hedge planting may be carried out using an approved herbicide but only with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers.
  • The hedge bottom must not be mown.
  • Where a fence is required, it must be sited at least one metre from the centre line of the hedge.
  • Both sides of the hedge must be managed, i.e. a 2 metre strip will be managed 1 metre on either side of the centre line.

Management of Hedgerows

box 3.16

A mixed hedge

A mixed hedge rich in berries and fruits
Photo: FWAG

Hedges are a characteristic feature in some areas of Scotland. Hedgerows enhance the landscape and provide food and cover for birds, invertebrates and small mammals. The best hedges have a variety of woody species and a rich weedy flora at the base. A dense, bushy structure is stock-proof and provides plenty of shelter for invertebrates, birds and mammals. Even slightly open hedges make efficient wind breaks, providing shelter and thus warmer conditions on the leeward side, which benefit reptiles in particular.

Tussocky grasses beside the hedge base will be used for over-wintering by the beetles and spiders that prey on crop pests. Hedgerow trees and hedge junctions are particularly appreciated by bullfinches and other birds. Any dead wood in the hedgerow is a valuable habitat for invertebrates and fungi.

Hedge bottoms can be rich in wildflowers and provide a haven for invertebrates, ground-nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles. To maintain this biodiversity, pesticides should not be applied to the bottom of an established hedge. Application of fertilisers will similarly damage the wildlife interest of the site by stimulating excessive grass growth. Prescriptions 23 and 24 encourage this type of hedgerow management.

The Standard of Good Farming Practice requires that no hedge trimming be carried out between 1 March and 31 July. Ideally, hedges should be left undisturbed until the end of the year, as the shrubs that flowered in mid summer provide berries and seeds a month or two later - food for birds and small mammals during the autumn. Between December and February is an ideal time to trim a hedge. Most woody species found within a hedge produce flowers and bear fruit on the previous year's growth. Where possible, therefore, hedges should not be trimmed annually.

Managed hedge

Managed hedge
Photo: L. Gill-SNH

Also...

  • Consideration should be given to the planting of appropriate native-species trees and shrubs in hedge gaps.
  • Leggy hedges may be coppiced by cutting the main stem about 3-4 inches above ground level. Cut at a slight angle to allow water to run off. Fencing may be necessary to prevent stock browsing the re-growth.
  • For the woody components of hedges, the aim should be to achieve a bushy structure down to the base with a minimum width of 2m and minimum of height of 1.75m. Above 2 metres, the hedge should be trimmed to prevent it developing into a row of small trees, although occasional plants may be left to develop into hedgerow trees.