Recent European ruling have seen changes to the use of PPPs on Ecological Focus Areas and therefore causing many farms to re adjust their cropping because of this.
The main changes for 2018 are as follows:
- A complete ban on the use of Plant Protection Products (including seed dressings) on Ecological Focus Area (EFA) Fallow Land, EFA Catch and Cover Crops, and EFA Nitrogen-fixing Crops is introduced. The ban applies from the time of sowing the crop, even if this is before 1 January 2018, to harvesting.
- The EFA option for hedges is extended in definition to include trees in a line. The EFA value will remain the same – 1m of length = 10m² of area for EFA providing you manage both sides. Other management options available.
- The EFA buffer strips option is extended in definition to include field margins as well as buffer strips. In addition to buffer strips adjacent or parallel with a water course, you can also claim field margins towards your EFA if they area against a permanent boundary or feature. These include fences, walls, tracks, roads, trees and hedges. The minimum width of 1 metre remains. 1m in length = 9m² of EFA area. Therefore this option is likely to be an effective way to obtain your EFA.
- For 2018 EFA catch crops must be maintained for a minimum of 8 weeks starting on 20 August 2018 and must be retained until at least 14 October 2018. The period for EFA cover crops remains at 1 October to 15 January of the following year.
- For EFA nitrogen-fixing crops sown from this autumn they can now contain:
- mixtures of different nitrogen-fixing crop species; or
- mixtures of nitrogen fixing crops and other crops, as long as over 50% is nitrogen-fixing crops.
It is worth noting that Catch crops have to be drilled by the 31st August and can be removed by the 14th October, and therefore may prove a good option to farms that have the capabilities of drilling before the 31st August. This has to be made up of one cereal crop (wheat not included) and one non-cereal crop, so farms growing spring barley and Oats may be able to utilise volunteers after harvest to reduce cost of establishment. Cover crops must be drilled by the 1st October and must remain in place up till the 15th January but may prove an attractive option for maintaining soil cover.
As mentioned above, buffer strips and field margins may prove a valuable method of obtaining EFA points as margins along permanent field features can now be used (minimum width 1m). Where watercourses are concerned we would advice taking this option up to reduce the potential risk of water pollution.
Nitrogen fixing crops also include forage legumes, so for farms with livestock this may prove a very cost-effective way to produce high protein forage as well as achieving the EFA area required.
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