Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2010 (NE226)
NEW OPTION in 2010  
EJ5    In-field grass areas to prevent erosion and run-off
350 points per ha

This option aims to reduce the movement of sediment, nutrients and pesticides by wind and water erosion, both within fields and from field-to-field, through the careful location of permanent grass areas. It is available on arable land. It can also contribute to flood management by reducing surface run-off.

This option can be used to achieve a number of different objectives depending on the type of pollution and the pollutant pathway. For example:

  • grassing areas vulnerable to erosion, such as light soils on steep slopes, can reduce the amount of erosion of soil, organic material, nutrients and pesticides; and
  • grassing natural drainage pathways (eg valley bottoms) will help to reduce the channelling of run-off water that can produce rills and gullies.

Fields susceptible to erosion can have both in-field grassed areas to minimise the development of erosion and buffer strips at the field margins to capture any erosion or surface run-off. This option is suitable for land that has been identified in your FER as being at risk of causing soil erosion or run-off. It applies to part-fields only, up to a maximum permissible area of 30 per cent of the field.

While this option may help protect specific down-slope field boundaries, the extent and location of the option should take into account potential impacts on field boundary patterns, especially in open landscapes.

These areas are more efficient at trapping sediment when they do not receive flow channelled from rills or gullies. Therefore, it is important to manage adjacent land to maximise water infiltration. They are not effective in reducing phosphate losses from underdrained clay soils.

For this option, you must comply with the following:

  • Establish or maintain a dense grassy area during the first 12 months of your agreement, either by sowing or, ideally, by natural regeneration. Remove any compaction in the topsoil if you need to prepare a seedbed, except on archaeological features. Regular cutting in the first 12-24 months may be needed to control annual weeds and encourage grasses to tiller. Avoid cutting when the soil is moist to prevent further compaction.
  • The width of the area must not be less than 10 m along its entire length.
  • After the first 12-24 months, cut the entire area annually after mid-July.
  • Do not apply any fertilisers or manures.
  • Only apply herbicides to spot-treat or weed-wipe for the control of injurious weeds (ie creeping and spear thistles, curled and broad-leaved docks or common ragwort) or invasive non-native species (eg Himalayan balsam, rhododendron or Japanese knotweed).
  • Do not use the grass area for regular vehicular access, turning or storage. There should be no tracks, compacted areas or poaching.
  • Do not graze the grass area. Grazing livestock, pigs and poultry should be excluded from the area.
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