HOW THE SUSTAINABLE FARMING INCENTIVE CAN HELP YOUR FARMING BE FAIR TO NATURE
Fair to Nature conservation adviser, Kevin Rylands, Sustainable Farming Incentive and how it can help farms meet the requirments of Fair to Nature…
The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is an open scheme designed to support farms promoting sustainable practices. It can be applied for as a standalone grant or alongside Countryside Stewardship, providing the management options are compatible and are not being paid for twice. Each agreement offers a three-year management grant, providing a guaranteed financial return whilst delivering benefits for biodiversity, soil, pollution, and flood management.
There are no mandatory combinations of actions and no minimum or maximum areas and, unlike Stewardship, there is no competition so all eligible applicants will get an agreement. This approach will hopefully ensure wide take up, but many grants may not be at the level to make differences beyond the field scale let alone across the landscape. However, more land and actions can be added to agreements each year.
As with Stewardship, designing your SFI agreement can go a long way to ensuring your farm is Fair to Nature. We know for wildlife to thrive a minimum of 10% of the farmed area needs to provide the six key Farm Wildlife actions. These areas can be funded through SFI, and the right choice of options, in the right place, will enable you to boost biodiversity, farming and financial support from the scheme.
By siting options on unproductive or low yielding areas, the SFI can help make financial savings as well as improve livestock health, nutrient management, soil condition and water quality. The use of management options to boost populations of beneficial invertebrates alongside a funded Integrated Pest Management plan can also make an important difference to sustainability and the bottom line.
Options supporting Fair to Nature
To be fair to farmland birds at least 2% of the farmed area should be providing seed-rich habitats. Suitable SFI option:
- AHL2 Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land £732/ha
To be fair to pollinators and other beneficial invertebrates, at least 4% of the farmed area should be providing flower-rich habitats. Suitable SFI options are:
- AHL1 Pollen and nectar flower mix £614/ha
- IPM2 Flower-rich grass margins, blocks, or in-field strips £673/ha
To be fair to farm wildlife at least 1% of the farmed area should be wildlife rich boundaries and margins. Suitable SFI options are:
- HRW2 Manage hedgerows £10/100m
- HRW3 Maintain or establish hedgerow trees £10/100m
- AHL3 Grassy field corners and blocks £590/ha
- AHL4 4m to 12m grass buffer strip on arable and horticultural land £451/ha
- IGL1 Take improved grassland field corners or blocks out of management £333/ha
- IGL3 4m to 12m grass buffer strip on improved grassland £235/ha
There are other SFI options that also deliver Fair to Nature habitats, but a conversion rate is required within Fair to Nature. These options are:
- IGL2 Winter bird food on improved grassland £474/ha (conversion rate 0.4)
- LIG1/2 Manage grassland with very low nutrient inputs £151/ha (conversion rate 0.2)
- SAM3 Herbal leys £382/ha (conversion rate 0.2)
- NUM3 Legume fallow £593/ha (conversion rate 0.2)
There are a good number of further SFI options that will also deliver the sustainability elements of the Fair to Nature scheme and other on farm benefits.
- HRW1 Assess and record hedgerow condition £3/100m
- SAM1 Assess soil, test soil organic matter and produce a soil management plan £5.80/ha and an additional payment of £95 per agreement
- SAM2 Multi-species winter cover crops £129/ha
Integrated pest management
- IPM1 Assess integrated pest management and produce a plan £989
- IPM3 Companion crop on arable and horticultural land £55/ha
- IPM4 No use of insecticide on arable crops and permanent crops £45/ha
- NUM1 Assess nutrient management and produce a review report £589
- NUM2 Legumes on improved grassland £102/ha
- Apply for an annual veterinary health and welfare review of livestock
For more information on SFI visit SFI Handbook for the SFI 2023 offer – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) or for more advice visit Stacking options for SFI 2023 | AHDB
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