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.

 


 

 

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