Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)
UPDATED in 2013
EJ9 12 m buffer strips for watercourses on cultivated land
400 points per ha

A wide buffer strip

This option aims to reduce the risk of transport of potential pollutants, such as sediment, nutrients (principally phosphate) and pesticides, to watercourses.

This option is intended for land adjacent to ditches, rivers or streams where it can intercept and remove sediment, organic material, nutrients and chemicals carried in run-off water. These buffer strips must not overlap with the cross compliance requirement not to cultivate land within 2 m of the centre of a hedgerow or watercourse (and within 1 m of the top of the bank of a watercourse). This option is only available on arable or rotational land that has been identified (and recorded on your FER) as at risk of soil erosion or run-off.

The payment for this option is based on the area of the buffer, but if it exceeds 24 m in width at any point, the additional area cannot be included in the payment area. You will need to measure the payment area with care to ensure you claim the correct number of points. You may find mapping software such as MAGIC (www.magic.gov.uk) helpful.

For this option, you must comply with the following:

  • Establish or maintain a grassy strip 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 strip may vary between 12 m and 24 m along its length but must not be less than 12 m wide at any point.
  • 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).
  • remainder to control woody growth, and no more than once every 2 years.
  • Do not use buffer strips for regular vehicular access, turning or storage. There should be no tracks, compacted areas or poaching.
  • Do not graze the buffer strip.
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