ADAS delivered a grant presentation in conjunction with Newcastle University at Cockle Park Farm, Morpeth, to an industry audience of farmers, consultants and agricultural students.

John Williams, ADAS soil scientist, outlined the development of sustainable permanent grassland systems stating this would provide a better place for farm margins.

“There is an opportunity for improving grasslands and rejuvenating grasslands. If this is achieved, and better grass grown on farms, this will help reduce expensive input costs from overseas,” he said.

“Improving grassland over time can vary owing to each farm circumstance. A farmer owning land for a long time or for generations has an inbuilt long-term advantage. This may be more difficult in the cases of short-term tenancies or long-term tenancies. Costs play an important consideration and in the case of short-term tenancies, may be difficult to fully justify.

“Farmers may need policy support and should contact ADAS to assist in delivery. However, there are some simple steps to be taken such as soil-testing to provide an accurate analysis of soil health. Soil-depth analysis should be 15 centimetres for an arable rotation and 7.5 centimetres for permanent grassland.”

Speaking directly in relation to Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) at Cockle Park, James Standen, Newcastle University Farms director, said: “SFI options need to be considered and we have to fix our options and agreements. Running multiple SFI schemes can be complicated especially in relation to our on-going trial work.”

The Northern Farmer: James Standen of Newcastle University

Mr Standen, who farms in his own right in North Yorkshire, stated Newcastle University would be maintaining a policy of using SFI field margins and wild bird mix options for levels of income and using the centre of the fields for research and trial work purposes.

ADAS consultant Zoe Morgan outlined various examples of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and the opportunities available to farmers. Ms Morgan said there are management challenges as farms are different having stoney, wet or shallow soils, sloping land and farmers having to adapt to more extreme weather patterns.

In relation to the ELM scheme, this option consists of: component 1, SFI, requiring simple actions that achieve environment outcomes; component 2, Countryside Stewardship Plus, requiring locally-targeted environmental goals that encourage collaboration and retains Mid-Tier and Higher-tier status; and component 3, Landscape Recovery, via long-term land use change and projects.

SFI has been introduced as a low-level option and is applicable to most farmers and landowners. SFI 2023 is offered as a more flexible pick-and-mix selection of options and includes 23 actions over nine categories. An additional SFI Management payment of £1,000 is available on 50 hectares of land included into the scheme.

SFI action for soils provides SAM1 payment of £5.80p per hectare plus £95 additional per agreement. This includes soil assessment, soil testing and a management plan. SAM2 provides a payment of £129 per hectare for multi-species cover crops. SAM3 provides £382 per hectare for herbal leys.

Moorland actions are included to understand how moorland contributes to providing environmental benefits and how moorland can provide future benefits. MOR1 provides £10.30 per hectare plus an additional participation payment of £265 per agreement. Moorland is assessed and a written record produced. SFI payments are available for integrated pest management according to Ms Morgan.

“IPM1 provides a payment of £989 per year. This requires an IPM assessment and the production of an agreement level management plan. IPM2 provides a payment of £673 per hectare for flower-rich grass margins, area blocks or in-field strips. IPM3 provides £55 per hectare for companion crops on arable and horticultural land and IPM4 £45 per hectare for non-use of insecticide on arable and permanent crops.

“Actions for Nutrient Management NUM1 provides £589 per year to assess nutrient management and produce a report. NUM2 provides £102 per hectare for legumes on improved grassland and NUM3 provides £593 per hectare for legume fallow. Meanwhile, AHL1 for farmland wildlife on arable provides £614 per year for pollen and nectar flower mix,” she said.

AHL2 provides £732 per hectare for winter bird food on arable and horticultural land and AHL3 provides £590 per hectare for grassy field corners and blocks. IGL1 actions for farmland wildlife provides £333 per hectare for improved grassland fields and IGL2 provides £472 per hectare for winter bird food on improved land and field corners or blocks out of management.

New actions for 2024, to be confirmed, include additional moorland actions, agri-forestry, ponds and lakes, precision farming, new technology and may include summer cover crops and min-till and no-till. SFI animal health and welfare includes funding for veterinary testing, review and advice. Funding per holding includes £522 for beef cattle and £372 for dairy cattle, with a minimum of 11 animals. With £436 for sheep and £684 for pigs with a minimum of 21 and 51 animals, respectively.