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Treat Run-Off of Pollutants - Biobeds

Option closed to new applications

Introduction/What is this about?

The quality of Scotland's water environment is generally good. However, many of Scotland's river water bodies are at risk of not meeting the Water Framework Directive (WFD) objectives due to diffuse water pollution, principally from agriculture.

Capital investments are needed to reduce such pollution, targeted at areas where water bodies are of low quality. These investments will deliver both efficiencies in the use and treatment of polluting substances and help to secure an environmentally sustainable industry.

Biobeds reduce the risk of water pollution from pesticides (including herbicides, fungicides and insecticides). They are constructed features designed to collect, retain and degrade pesticide residues arising from pesticide handling and washdown activities.

What will this achieve?

Biobeds lock up pesticides, and provide conditions for their microbial breakdown, thus preventing them entering the water environment. There is a public benefit, as well as a benefit to the farmer, from the better control of pesticides .

They are most appropriate where pesticides are being handled at the steading, for instance during filling, diluting or washdown operations. "Pesticide" means any substance, preparation or organism prepared or used for destroying any pest; it includes herbicides.

This will help protect water quality, locally and in the wider natural environment.

What you can do

The biobed must be constructed in accordance with recognised design principles (guidance is available from The Voluntary Initiative on pesticides).

Biobeds consist of:

  • shallow, excavations, normally 1-1.3 metres deep

filled with

  • biomix (a mixture by volume of 50% straw, 25% soil, 25% peat-free compost, for example), turfed over, and using
  • an impermeable liner and collection facility for drainage from the biobed.

Mixing and handling of pesticides or wash down must be done either directly over the biobed or in an adjacent bunded concrete area which drains to the biobed.

Exemptions from waste management licensing are available to allow the waste biomix from the biobed (when it has come to the end of its working life) to be composted for a year and then spread to land. An exemption is also available to allow the re-use of the liquid residue from the biobed (such as for washdown, etc).

Waste exemptions must be registered with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Where the liquid residue is disposed of to land, a CAR authorisation would be required from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.

Who can apply?

Land managers. The measure is likely to be most useful on farms where substantial quantities of pesticides are handled or on farms where pesticides are regularly used.

Eligibility criteria

You need to be farming in Scotland and be using pesticides which are hazardous to the water environment, and where the risks can be reduced by means of a biobed.

What costs could be supported?

Contribution towards the capital cost of constructing a biobed.

Construction costs can vary considerably. The draft design manual quotes typical costs of between £3,500 and £7,000. However, costs could be considerably lower, depending on specific site characteristics and the availability of on-farm labour/skills.

To ensure value for money we require you to provide 2 competitive quotes for any capital items applied for which are based on actual cost. If, however, you are seeking grant support towards something so specialised it is only available through 1 source then we would accept 1 quote. Please see the guidance on quotes and estimates for more information.

Rate of support

For non-LFA up to 40% of eligible costs. Plus 10% Young Farmer Premium if eligible*

For less favoured areas (LFA) up to 50% of eligible costs. Plus 10% Young Farmer Premium if eligible*

*To be eligible for the Young Farmer Premium, you must be a farmer or crofter who, at the time of committing a Proposal is:

  • 16 years of age or over, but under 40 years of age
  • the head of an agricultural business (either as sole proprietor; or as the majority partner; or as the equal partner with another farmer or farmers under 40 years of age)

Note: For the Young Farmer Premium a copy of your birth certificate or other proof of age is required. Companies are ineligible for the 10% Young Farmer Premium.


The following is a brief overview of the inspection procedures, for a full explanation please see links below:

Inspectors will check:

  • Compliance with design principles within The Voluntary Initiative on Pesticides
  • Waste exemptions are registered with SEPA where applicable
  • Valid CAR (Controlled Activities Regulation) authorisation for liquid residue disposal

List of links to relevant technical guidance

The Voluntary Initiative on pesticides

PEPFAA Code (Prevention of Environmental Pollution From Agricultural Activity)

Code of Practice for using Plant Protection Products in Scotland

Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005

Section on 'On the spot' inspections