The Rural Stewardship Scheme
Prescriptions for Arable Areas
25. Introduction or Retention of Extensive Cropping
Aim: To increase the conservation value of arable land within a Less Favoured Area by supporting traditional cropping rotations that will provide cover and feeding areas for birds.
Some BAP species that may benefit: Skylark, Corn bunting, Song thrush.
Eligible sites: A site comprising arable land or improved grassland in the Less Favoured Areas which does not exceed 4 hectares and subject to a maximum area per undertaking of 8 hectares.
- Ploughing, cultivations and the spreading of fertiliser may only take place between 28 February and 15 May *. Exceptionally, for root crops, cultivations may be carried out after 15 May; any nests located to be marked and avoided,
* This date will be altered if AAPS date altered.
If fodder rape or a similar crop is grown, cultivations may take place later in the year to establish the crop; following cropping, the area should not be ploughed or cultivated before 31 May in the following year.
- Pesticides may be applied only with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers. There will be a maximum allowance of 250 kg of compound fertiliser per hectare per annum.
- Premium Payment
The management regime outlined above is applied on the same site for a period of at least 3 years. In the final year of this arable rotation, a cereal crop will be undersown with grass. The undersown crop will be subject to the usual management, which must be maintained throughout the following season. If rolling of the grass crop is necessary, this should be carried out before 15 March. The undersown crop may be grazed or cut for hay or silage.
Photo: Andrew hay (RSPB Images)
The tree sparrow, despite its name, is not dependent upon trees. It is usually found on cultivated land where patches of trees are present. Tree sparrows often nest in holes in mature trees, although they will build nests in hedges and bushes and will readily use a nest box. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the tree sparrow population declined across Britain by 85% and its breeding range contracted significantly over the same period.
The adults feed on seeds, taking both grain and weed seed, while chicks are fed mainly on invertebrates. Thus many of the prescriptions in the Rural Stewardship Scheme will benefit the tree sparrow. However, it may be necessary to combine two or more prescriptions in order to provide the bird's nesting and feeding requirements within a given area. Prescriptions 2, 6, 8, 21, 22, 25 and 26 can all benefit the tree sparrow, particularly during the spring and summer. In addition, leaving areas of crops unharvested, especially if weedy (Prescription 28), will increase greatly over-winter survival rates. Fodder brassicas and cereal stubbles are also important in this respect.
- Traditional cropping rotations may comprise spring cereals, root crops and fodder rape.
- The aim is to maintain a similar area of cropped land in each year of the plan, although minor adjustments to this area can be made to allow for differences in field sizes. SEERAD need to be given details at application stage of the fields to be 'rotated' in this way, i.e. field identifiers and area measurements.
26. Spring Cropping
Photo: © Chris Gomersall and rspb-images.com
Aim: To increase the conservation value of arable land outwith the Less Favoured Area by encouraging the growing of spring-sown in place of autumn/winter-sown cereal crops and the practice of leaving areas of stubble over-winter in order to provide feeding and breeding areas for seed-eating birds.
Some BAP species that may benefit: Skylark, Corn bunting, Snow bunting, Reed bunting, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge.
Eligible sites: A site comprising arable land in the non Less Favoured Areas, subject to a maximum area per undertaking equal to the largest area of AAPS-eligible winter crop grown on the unit or units concerned in the 3 years prior to the year of application, or 20 hectares, whichever is the lower.
- Ploughing, cultivations and the spreading of fertiliser (including slurry and farmyard manure) may only take place between 28 February and 15 May.
- Between harvest and 28 February, pesticides may be applied only with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers.
- To maintain a similar area of cropped land in each year of the plan, although minor adjustments to this area can be made to allow for differences in field sizes. SEERAD need to be given details at application stage of the fields to be 'rotated', i.e. field identifiers and area measurements.
- Spring-sown cereal, linseed, oilseed or protein crops will be grown in place of autumn/winter-sown crops. Following adoption of this option, there must be a clear reduction in the area of autumn/winter-sown crops and a corresponding increase in the area of spring-sown crops grown on the units covered by the application.
27. Management of Cropped Machair
Aim: To encourage the traditional cropping of previously cultivated machair land, i.e. improved grassland, land in crop or lying fallow after an arable crop. This will provide feeding grounds for birds and following cultivation, will encourage a range of annual plants to grow and flower as the area reverts to natural grassland.
Some BAP species that may benefit: Corncrake, Skylark, Northern colletes bee, Great yellow bumblebee.
Eligible sites: Previously cropped machair.
- To be eligible for a payment under this option, the site must be included in an arable rotation, comprise at least 15% of the ploughable area of the machair and be sown to an arable crop or left fallow.
- After the arable crop has been harvested, the site must be left fallow to revert to natural grassland for a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 3 years.
- Ploughing and cultivation may only take place between 28 February and 15 May.
- Ploughing depth must not exceed 100mm.
- Pesticides may be applied only with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers.
- Seaweed and farmyard manure may be applied in accordance with traditional practice. A premium payment will be due in this circumstance.
Cropping on the Machair of North Uist
Photo: P&A Macdonald - SNH
- An area of land on the eligible machair can only be considered for management under this option if it is brought into the required crop/fallow rotation in the first, second or third year of participation in the Scheme by the sowing of a spring crop and has been subject to cultivation within the last 10 years.
Cropping on the Machair
Northern colletes bee
Found on the western seaboard of Scotland, notably the Outer Hebrides, this bee is usually associated with extensively grazed flower rich grassland. It depends upon banks of bare sandy soil in which it makes its burrows so machair areas are ideal habitat. Such banks and other areas of bare soil within herb rich dune grassland may be under-valued, and the bee populations limited by their occurrence.
Photo: Robin Wynde - RSPB
'Machair' is one of the rarest habitats in Europe. This distinctive coastal grassland is found only in north and west Scotland and western Ireland. The soil is mixed with wind-blown shell sand and is traditionally enriched with seaweed gathered from the beaches. The machair is often the main area of cultivation and may include grassland pasture, hay meadow, rotational arable and wetlands.
The departure from traditional cropping, increased use of fertilisers and pesticides and more intensive stocking with sheep have led to a decline in the variety of plants and the characteristic animal species they support.
The practice of leaving an area fallow for a couple of years while another area is cultivated allows annual and short-lived plants to germinate, flower and set seed. This helps to create the spectacular display of flowers for which the machair is well known, and very varied and rich habitats for other wildlife.
Machair supports high numbers of breeding waders including oystercatcher, lapwing, ringed plover, redshank dunlin and snipe. It is also a critical habitat for corncrakes. Earthworms, snails and flies, spiders, harvestmen and various bees are commonly found over the herb-rich machair.
28. Unharvested Crops
Aim: To encourage the practice of leaving areas of crop unharvested or partially harvested and left in stooks, in order to provide cover and feeding areas for birds.
Some BAP species that may benefit: Grey partridge, Skylark, Capercaillie, Black grouse.
Eligible sites: Arable or improved grassland in plots of up to 2 ha in size and totalling no more than 8 ha over the whole unit.
Photo: Ian Francis
- Spring sow a cereal-based mixture including at least one legume species (other crops, e.g. linseed & brassicas, may be included in the mixture) and do not plough down until after 15 March the following year;
- Sow a mixture of at least two crops, one of which must seed in the first year and one in the second. Plough in after 15 March following last seeding year.
For both options:
- No application of pesticides or herbicides.