Field Margins - Guidelines for Entry level Stewardship in England (HGCA leaflet)


New arrangements for environmental stewardship in England means farmers must assess new options for managing field margins to optimise returns. These guidelines will help you make sensible choices for your farm. A mix of different margin options is likely to have the most benefit for wildlife and the environment, alongside other features such as overwintered stubbles and hedge management.

These guidelines provide summary details for key arable margin options selected from all those available in the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme in one document. This includes information on practical management, costs, biodiversity and environmental benefits, Local Environmental Risk Assessment for Pesticides (LERAP) compliance as well as potential problems.

See the Defra Joint Character Area (JCA) statement for your area for more guidance on what options to choose for your farm (

Environmental stewardship

The Single Payment Scheme requires all applicants to meet cross compliance standards including maintaining land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC). Environmental Stewardship, a new agri-environment scheme, goes beyond GAEC to secure widespread environmental benefits. There are three elements, two of which are dealt with in this leaflet:

Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) is a whole farm scheme open to all farmers in England.

Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) is open to farmers who manage all or part of their land organically but do not receive aid under the Organic Aid Scheme, or the Organic Farming Scheme.

Higher Level Stewardship, a discretionary scheme, aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high priority situations and areas. HLS is not covered in these guidelines.

Gaining ELS points

You must devise an environmental management programme for at least five years. The aim is to select options which add up to a target of 30 points/ha to receive £30/ha a year for all land entered into the scheme.

The exception is for parcels of 15ha or more of Less Favoured Area land which is worth 8 points/ha for which you will receive £8/ha annually.

Provided you agree to deliver the options which meet your points target and scheme conditions, you will be accepted into the scheme.

Calculating points

The ELS points listed in these guidelines are based on the area of the chosen option, eg 6m buffer strip (EE3) x 500m length = 0.3ha x 400 points/ha = 120 points.

See Defra Entry Level Stewardship Handbook for details.

Interpreting the effects

Benefits and potential problems are scored in each table in these guidelines as follows:

More symbols reflect increased environmental and biodiversity benefit or problem based on research knowledge and practical experience. In most situations problems can be contained by appropriate management.

Estimating costs




Plough & press, cultivate, drill & roll


Spray, light power harrow, broadcast & roll


Seed costs


2m grass margin


6m grass margin


6m grass and wild flower margin


Wild bird seed mix


Pollen and nectar mix


Beetle bank

On-going management  



LERAP requirements

Cross compliance protection zones and ELS buffer strips can help meet LERAP requirements. (see for more details.)

Key points are:

  • LERAP is only needed for certain pesticides used near watercourses if you want to reduce the buffer zone shown on the product label.
  • Use a 1m buffer zone if one of the following applies:
    • the watercourse is dry
    • a 3 star sprayer is used
    • no more than 1/4 of the maximum permitted dose rate is applied.
  • A maximum 5m buffer zone may be needed when applying over 3/4 of full rate with a standard sprayer adjacent to a watercourse less than 3m wide.
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