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Working Catchment Sensitive Farming and farmland wildlife options within Mid Tier

Following Michael Gove's recent speech at the Oxford Farming Conference in which he began to outline the future direction of agricultural policy in England, it is becoming increasingly clear that soil health, water quality and biodiversity are very high up on the agenda. These issues could be addressed with the 'stick' of regulation or with the 'ca...

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The Big Farmland Bird Count

With winter in full swing and farmland birds seeking out all of the opportunities on farm to feed themselves, now is the time to see how they are faring on your own farm. Each year, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) host the Big Farmland Bird Count. Farmers and land managers undertake a lot of work to help protect and nurture the wild...

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Exploring your options for cover crop desiccation

At this point in the New Year (and if you haven't already) it's time to plan how you're going to break down your cover crop. While it's true that frosts can do some of the work, most winters (including this one) won't kill cover crops outright. How yours is destroyed can be as important as what was actually grown to allow for the best entry into yo...

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Simplified offers for new Countryside Stewardship Agreements

The complexities of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme have been well documented. They range from an over-complicated application process and onerous evidence and record-keeping requirements, to difficult to navigate online guidance and delays in agreement offers. In a recent announcement on the GOV.UK website, it seems that DEFRA and Natural Engla...

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Get a precise focus on your EFAs

Changes are ahead for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). However, by taking a more precise approach to tailor the farm areas allocated to EFAs and choosing longer term crop options, they still represent a fantastic opportunity to improve biodiversity and the farm's bottom line. EFAs have hit the headlines due to the imminent removal of the use of Plant...

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Grey partridges need you

After a long and protracted harvest for many we are now seeing fields cleared leaving land and farm managers who have an interest in farmland wildlife with a hugely rewarding and valuable task to undertake... counting grey partridges! The grey partridge is a key farmland bird indicator species and helps to show that your hard work in terms of habit...

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Accepting EFA changes... and embracing them!

The latest Ecological Focus Area (EFA) changes announced for 2018 have caused much speculation among my colleagues and growers too. In particular, people have been very animated about the loss of crop protection products within EFAs, with some seeing it as reducing the value of EFA options on farm. Meanwhile, DEFRA termed this as a complete BAN whi...

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Hedgerows and woodland - Get ahead, get a plan

The annual period during which landowners are prevented from cutting hedges under cross-compliance recently came to an end. With this important annual restriction in place to protect wildlife from 1st March until 31st August, it's tempting to set about hedge cutting in earnest come September. However, there are very good reasons to be selective wit...

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Mid-Tier - five minutes to change your mind

Given my role, you will not be surprised to learn that I am almost fanatical about getting land managers and farmers to take a look at Countryside Stewardship and particularly Mid Tier agreements. Oh no, I hear you groan! But give me five minutes and I will change your mind... It can't hurt to take a look, can it? I know from my conversations, both...

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