Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)
NEW in 2013
EK20 Ryegrass seed-set as winter/spring food for birds
80 points per ha

Please note this option is subject to approval by the European Commission.

The aim of this option is to allow silage fields to go to seed in autumn, providing a food resource throughout winter and into the ‘hungry gap’ in February for buntings (such as yellowhammer) and other granivorous birds. It may also increase abundance of invertebrates and small mammals.

This option is only available on swards containing at least 50 per cent ryegrass (perennial, Italian or hybrid). Temporary grassland (sown to grass or other herbaceous forage for less than 5 years) and grassland that has been cultivated and re-sown within the last 5 years are eligible for this option. It can be applied on whole- or part-fields. If used on part-fields the area should be at least 10 m wide. For most birds it will be beneficial to site next to a hedge but for skylark it should be sited away from trees and hedges.

This is a ‘rotational option’. This means that it can move around the farm within the normal farm rotation, but the same total hectarage must be maintained each year.

There is no restriction on use of lime, fertiliser, manure, fungicides, insecticides or selective herbicides prior to taking the silage cut(s).

For this option, you must comply with the following:

  • Close the field for at least 5 weeks and take a silage cut by 31 May.
  • On swards containing at least 70 per cent Italian or hybrid ryegrass, you may also take a second cut of silage (or hay) by 30 June.
  • After cutting and removal, close the field, allowing the sward to flower and set seed in the autumn. Leave the sward undisturbed with no harrowing, rolling, cultivation, application of manure or fertiliser until at least 1 March. You may then destroy the sward or restore it by harrowing or grazing. (This may be helped by the establishment of fallen seeds.)
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