Catchment Sensitive Farming: Practical Tips

Practical Tip: In-field buffer strips

An in-field buffer strip is a raised vegetated strip of land, located along the land contour, on upper slopes or in valley bottoms. It is usually a permanent feature, although it can be temporary. The strip acts as a natural buffer feature to reduce the transfer of diffuse pollutants in surface run-off from agricultural land to water. Buffer strips can therefore act as a sediment trap, as well as helping to reduce nutrient and pesticide losses in run-off.

In-field buffer strips are applicable to all arable farming systems on sloping land. They are particularly suited to fields with long and steep slopes, where high volumes of surface run-off can be generated.

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

  • A grass strip adjacent to a watercourse can filter surface run-off to reduce the amount of eroded soil, organic material, nutrients and pesticides reaching the watercourse
  • Grassing natural drainage pathways (e.g. valley bottoms) will help to reduce channeling of run-off water that can produce rills and gullies
  • A grass strip angled against the prevailing wind can reduce wind borne soil erosion

Key points

  • Soil compaction should be removed before establishment
  • Strips should be cut at least twice in the first year to control annual weeds and encourage grasses to tiller
  • The area should not be used for regular access, vehicle turning or storage


Newly established In-field grass strip in a valley bottom to reduce soil erosion on a farm in West Somerset. Source: FWAG

Please note that although in-field strips will help to intercept surface run-off they should be used in combination with other management practices to minimise the risk of erosion.




pdf.gif (228 bytes) Click here for PDF Version
ADLib logo Content provided by the Agricultural Document Library
© University of Hertfordshire, 2011