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Grass Margins and Beetlebanks

Option closed to new applications

Introduction

This Option will provide support for the creation and management of grass strips along the boundary of or across an arable field.

What this will achieve

Grass strips can serve a dual purpose - support wildlife and reduce soil erosion. Insects over-winter in the grass strips. Beneficial insects can include crop pollinators and insects to control crop pests. Temporary grass margins can also support rare arable plants and provide food and cover for birds and small mammals.

Cross-field strips on sloping fields will help to reduce the risk of erosion and soil and nutrient run-off. Slower surface-water flow rates can also help to reduce flooding downstream.

The Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species that may benefit include Grey Partridge, Linnet, Bullfinch, Spotted Flycatcher, Corn Bunting, Purple Ramping-Fumitory and Cornflower.

What you must do

You must manage a grass margin strip between 1.5 metres and 6 metres in width in an arable field. Where the management is to benefit Hen Harriers, Corn Buntings, Barn Owl or Kestrel, the minimum width of the strip is 3 metres wide.

Either

1. Where no strip currently exists, establish a strip by sowing a suitable mix of grass seed, including at least one species of nectar-feeding plant such as red clover, into a sterile seedbed,

or

2. Manage a strip established under a previous agri-environment scheme, and, if not already present in the sward, sow at least one species of nectar-feeding plants such as red clover.

For both options:

  • do not apply fertiliser, slurry or farmyard manure to the strips;
  • scrub control is not allowed except with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers;
  • pesticides must not be applied to the managed area except with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers for activities such as spot treatment of scheduled weeds (i.e. creeping, spear or field thistle, curled or broadleaved dock and common ragwort) or non-native invasive species (i.e. Giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, Rhododendron ponticum or Japanese knotweed);
  • you will not be eligible for any additional payment to control scrub or weeds;
  • you may graze or top the grass margin or beetlebank after harvest, provided the average height of vegetation in the strip is not taken below 100 mm;
  • when you do not plan to sow the entire field to an arable crop, the minimum width of the arable area adjacent to the grass strip must be 30 metres;
  • any area adjacent to the grass margins or beetlebanks must remain in an arable crop, such as cereals, linseeds, oilseed, root crops, fruit crops or protein crops, including vining peas, for the duration of the undertaking, to obtain full conservation benefit from this Option. Land left fallow is not an eligible arable crop. In a mixed arable situation where an area will be put into grass or other non-eligible crop after 3 years, you can transfer the beetlebank/margin to another eligible field for the remaining 2 years of the agreement. In this situation, a beetlebank/grass margin may only be 'relocated' once during the 5-year agreement. On organic farms, where the normal rotation is a 2 year cycle, you can transfer the beetlebank/margin twice during the agreement period to ensure that the area is in an eligible crop. You must include in your application details of the fields that you propose to use.

An environmental or diffuse pollution audit will identify suitable locations for grass strips intended to prevent or minimise soil erosion or nutrient losses to nearby watercourses and lochs.

Who can apply

All land managers are eligible to apply for this Option.

Eligibility criteria

Land receiving payments for similar management under other agri-environment schemes is not eligible under this Option.

Please see Definitions of Land Types page for more detail.

What costs could be supported

For a comprehensive list of Capital Items click here. Any cost claimed must be fully justified.

The annual payment for this Option includes compensation for the loss of potential income from arable crops and also the additional cost of sowing the area to grass. The "laying down species-rich grassland" capital item cannot be claimed under this Option.

When completing your Proposal, you can select the appropriate capital item(s) from the dropdown list of standard cost capital items for this Option.

In addition to these capital items, financial support of up to 100% of eligible actual costs is available in respect of the following:

Please note that this capital item will not appear in the dropdown list of Standard Cost capital items for this Option and will need to be entered manually in the box for Actual Cost capital items. Only costs for the types of capital works listed above should be entered in the Actual Cost capital items box for this Option. Any other costs entered cannot be considered for funding.

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

This is a 5 year commitment. We will pay £473.76 per hectare per year for the establishment and management of a strip and £407.92 per hectare per year for the management of an existing strip. We will pay at the end of each year.


Inspections/verification


The inspector will check the requirements (as detailed above under 'what you must do') of the Option are being met, by a visual assessment on the day of inspection.


Beneficiaries must comply with the requirements of cross compliance, minimum requirements for fertiliser and plant protection products. You must also comply with the requirements to avoid damaging any features of historic or archaeological interest, and follow Scottish Ministers' guidance for the protection of such areas or features (detailed in links below).

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


Inspectors will check:

  • Strip is between 1.5 m and 6 m in or around arable field
  • Width is at least 3 m if for the benefit of hen harrier, corn bunting, barn owl or kestrel
  • Suitable grass seed mix has been sown;
  • Visual check to ensure no fertiliser/ FYM/Slurry has been applied to strip(s)
  • No scrub control has taken place without prior written agreement from Scottish Ministers
  • Pesticide records to ensure pesticides have not been applied to the site except with the prior written approval of Scottish Ministers for activities such as control of non-native plants or injurious weeds
  • The grass margin has not been grazed or topped to less than 100 mm

List of links to relevant technical guidance