Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)
NEW in 2013
EK21 Legume- and herb-rich swards
200 points per ha

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

This option will provide habitat and food for invertebrates including crop pollinators, benefit soil structure, mitigate climate change by reducing nitrogen fertiliser use and provide productive high-quality forage for livestock.

This option is only available on temporary grassland (sown to grass or other herbaceous forage for less than five years) or grassland that has been cultivated and re-sown within the last five years. It can be applied on whole- or part-fields.

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.

For this option, you must comply with the following:

  • In the first 12 months of the agreement, establish a mixed sward of grasses, legumes and herbs/wildflowers (eg chicory, yarrow, ribwort plantain, forage burnet, black knapweed, common sorrel). This is usually most reliably achieved by sowing into a clean seedbed, but could be done by oversowing existing grassland following creation of 50 per cent bare ground.
  • For the remainder of the agreement the sward must contain a minimum cover of 10 per cent red clover and an additional 10 per cent other legumes plus herbs, plus wildflowers (cover does not include white clover, creeping buttercup or injurious weeds). The sward must include at least five species of grass, three species of legume (including bird’s-foot trefoil) and five species of herb/wildflower.
  • Re-establish, if necessary, on the same or a different field, to maintain these minima.
  • Manage by cutting or grazing but allow to flower by resting for a 3–5 week period between 1 May and 31 July. You must delay cutting until the majority of red clover plants have started to flower.
  • Do not apply pesticides except herbicides to spot treat or weed-wipe for control of injurious weeds (ie creeping and spear thistles, curled and broad-leaved docks or common ragwort) ragwort); invasive nonnative species (eg Himalayan balsam, rhododendron or Japanese knotweed); or bracken.
  • You may apply lime and organic manures.
  • You may apply inorganic fertilisers provided they do not contain nitrogen.
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