The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) has been the most talked about initiative in recent weeks, with our office and agents inundated with questions around what mixtures and crops we can provide for the various agreements.
This hasn’t come as a surprise.
With the poor weather we saw in autumn, and a continuation of this bad weather throughout the winter, it’s obvious that there are more hectares than usual that weren’t cropped. Mainly due to there being too much water on the ground.
So, with a lot of heavier land still in need of cropping, and some mediocre crops probably being ripped up, the sustainable farming incentive provides growers an opportunity to monetise these spaces.
Furthermore, with an abundance of spring barley and spring oats around, most likely dropping the price, options within the SFI can make more sense. These options can be utilised from a farming, conservation and shooting perspective.
Read on to see which schemes could work for you, and the various benefits that the sustainable farming incentive could hold for you shoot or farm.
Sustainable Farming Incentive Options
Many of the options that we have been talking to customers about see a big overlap with many countryside stewardship schemes. The most popular being discussed with us are:
- AHL2 – Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land – This aims to produce a supply of small seeds for smaller farmland birds from late autumn until late winter. There is a clear overlap with CSS AB9. This pays £853 per Ha. We have various compliant mixtures that can be viewed here.
- AHL1 – Pollen and Nectar Flower Mix – To ensure there is a mix which produces areas of flowering plants from late spring and during the summer months. This overlaps with CSS AB1 and pays £764 per Ha. Our Nectar Flower Mix is compliant.
- AHL3 – Grassy Field Corners or Blocks – This option looks to ensure there’s an intact grass sward throughout the year, without tracks or compacted areas – so tussocky grass can develop. This overlaps with AB3 and pays £590 per Ha. Our Beetle Bank is compliant and a great option.
- NUM3 – Legume Fallow – This option ensures that there is a legume fallow that produces areas of flowering plants from late spring and during summer months. This overlaps with AB15 and pays £593 per Ha. We have a few mixes that work well and are compliant here.
- IPM2 – Flower-Rich Grass Margins, Blocks or In-Field Strips – To ensure there are areas containing flowering plants during the summer and into early autumn. This overlaps with AB8 and pays £798 per Ha. Our Flower-Rich Margins is ideal for this option.
- SAM2 – Multi-Species Winter Cover – This option makes sure there is a well-established multi-species cover crop over the winter to assist soil structure. This pays £129 per Ha.
- SAM3 – Herbal Leys – This option aims to provide varied root structures to help soil structure. It overlaps with GS4 and pays £382 per Ha. We have several options here that are compliant and work well for this scheme.
Benefits of The Sustainable Farming Incentive
For farmers, gamekeepers and landowners there are a number of benefits of the sustainable farming incentive.
First, SFI’s are a shorter-term agreement than countryside stewardship, with the former being just three years and the latter five years. This allows a little more flexibility.
We have managed to put the SFI schemes into four main benefit categories, which we hope will assist our customers when deciding whether or not to enter into the sustainable farming incentive –
As briefly mentioned, considering the volatile weather patterns that we’ve seen across the UK, not to mention unpredictable commodities markets in recent times, entering marginal and poor cropping land into an SFI makes a lot of sense.
It offers the landowner financial security from a farming business point of view.
So, it is worth considering those areas of the farm that can struggle. Could the business be making more money through one or several of the pre-mentioned SFI options than in a normal crop rotation?
Game Management and Conservation
We’ve demonstrated how several SFI schemes overlap with CSS, which means a large proportion of the SFI schemes will provide major gains for the game and wildlife populations.
First and foremost, those of us managing and running shoots have to ensure that our game birds are looked after, when managed properly a well-run shoot provides a good financial stream. Several SFI options will ensure released birds have the ideal habitat, including good cover and various food sources.
At the same time, the cover, food sources and flowering species will also play a vital role in helping farmland birds, biodiversity action plan species (BAPs) and pollinators.
Several SFI schemes focus on improving soil structure, soil biology and fertility. In particular, AHL1, NUM3 and SAM3.
So, in the long run, if a field is put down to one of these schemes for three years, the soil should have markedly improved. If this field is then put into arable, the resulting crop should be of better quality because of the improved soil health.
This is something that we come back to a lot, and that is because it is a key element for the future of both farming and game shooting.
We’ve all seen various, unfounded news stories and keyboard warriors attacking British farming, likewise with antis and shooting.
The sustainable farming incentive presents an opportunity to demonstrate to locals and urban communities the good work that farming can do for the environment and for habitat creation. Schemes like AHL1 – Pollen and Nectar Mix – are going to create aesthetically pleasing strips that locals will love. Likewise, AHL2 – Winter Bird Food – is going to attract and increase farmland bird activity, which again, reflects well on the industry.
As experts on The Sustainable Farming Incentive and all other Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMs) we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch and see how we can help you work out the best scheme and mixtures for your land
Either contact us here or call the office on 01722 744494