ARCHIVE: Set-aside and Environmental Benefits

Set-aside and Soil Protection

The continuous cover which is provided by set-aside policy decreases the effects of wind erosion and nitrate leaching, and grasslands / naturally regenerated land are easily reclaimable to arable use. Heathland soils tend to decrease levels of nitrate, phosphate, potassium and calcium in solution, and grasslands behave similarly. In order to minimise wind erosion on bare soil, set-aside land must have an established cover crop soon after harvesting. This is especially important in winter.

For a one-year fallow, priority is given to maintenance/enhancement of the quality of soil for next year. Control of annual weeds is not cost-effective, but choice of cover crop/natural regeneration may influence the growth of perennial weeds. Natural regeneration requires as much management as sown crops over a one-year period, but may produce many wildlife benefits, and decrease nitrate leaching. Forage Rape and Italian Rye-grass are very early seeders, and may cause weed problems, compared to a natural regeneration plot. (Clarke, 1993).

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