DEFRA has confirmed the following to us in terms of the changes to the 'greening' requirements for BPS 2018 applicable in England (the greening changes will apply in other parts of the UK, but may be implemented differently):-
- Cropping Period - Member States have the option to set different cropping periods at a 'national, regional or the appropriate sub-regional level'. This is not being taken up by DEFRA, so the cropping period in England will remain as 1st May to 30th June 2018.
- Mixed Crops - Member States can permit land parcels on which small areas of different crops are grown next to each other to be declared as 'mixed crops'. This is to be permitted in England.
- EFA Fallow Period - The six month EFA fallow period will remain the same - 1st January to 30th June 2018.
- EFA Hedges - This EFA option will be extended to include trees in a line.
- EFA Buffer Strips and Field Margins - These two EFA options have been merged (only buffer strips were available as an EFA option in England). In principle, DEFRA would like to make the new EFA option of buffer strips and field margins available to BPS claimants in England. We await clarification from DEFRA, however the current understanding is that the EFA buffer strip option (adjacent to (or within 5 metres of) arable land with a minimum width of 1 metre next to or parallel with (and on a slope leading to) a watercourse) will be extended to include field margins. This may mean, subject to confirmation from DEFRA, that any field margin, not just buffer strips adjacent to watercourses, which has a minimum width of 1 metre and maximum width of 20 metres could be eligible as EFA under this option. The effective amalgamation of these two EFA options should mean that the weighting applicable to EFA buffer strips (1m length equates to 9 square metres of EFA) should also apply to field margins, but confirmation is awaited from DEFRA.
- EFA Catch and Cover Crops - Areas under EFA Catch or Cover Crops must be maintained for a minimum period of 8 weeks. This is already met in England with the 15 week period set for EFA Cover Crops, but there will be a new extended period for EFA Catch Crops to meet this new 8 week requirement. EFA Catch Crops will have to be established by 20th August 2018 and retained until at least 14th October 2018.
- Mixtures of EFA Nitrogen-fixing Crops and Other Crops - Mixtures of nitrogen-fixing crops will be permitted as EFA, as well as mixtures of nitrogen-fixing crops grown with 'other crops' as long as the nitrogen-fixing crop is 'predominant'. Clarification of the interpretation of 'predominant' is awaited from DEFRA, but it is assumed for practical purposes to mean more than 50%.
- Ban on Plant Protection Products (PPPs) on EFA Fallow, Catch and Cover Crops and Nitrogen-Fixing Crops - PPPs may not be applied on any areas of fallow, catch/cover crops or nitrogen-fixing crops being used for EFA from BPS 2018. The current understanding is that this ban will apply for the life cycle of the crop for nitrogen-fixing and catch/cover crops and for the EFA fallow period of 1st January to 30th June 2018 for fallow areas. The European Commission has not yet confirmed how this ban on the life-cycle of a crop interacts with crops being planted this autumn, when the new rules do not apply until 1st January 2018. However, for practical planning purposes, it is assumed that the ban also applies during the period from when the crop is sown up to 31st December 2017. It is likely that this ban will also apply to seeds which are treated/dressed prior to sowing, but confirmation from the European Commission is also awaited on this point. DEFRA is working on more detailed guidance on this ban, but it is unlikely that it will be possible to finalise that until this autumn.