By Abby Kellett, Farmers Guardian
With autumn planting underway, here are six of the main changes to EFA greening rules for 2018 which EU farmers should be aware of.
1. Ban on use of plant protection products on EFAs
A complete ban on the use of plant protection products on Ecological Focus Area (EFA) fallow Land, EFA catch and cover crops, and EFA Nitrogen-fixing crops is to be introduced. The ban applies from the time of sowing the crop, even if this is before January 1, 2018, to harvesting. The ban also applies to seed dressings.
2. Option of 'mixed crops'
As part of crop diversification, farmers can declare an area as ‘mixed crops’ that contain small areas of different crops grown next to each other. Individually these would otherwise be too small to claim (less than 0.01ha) but can be claimed as one ‘mixed crop’ area.
3. Line of trees as a greening option
The EFA option for hedges is extended in definition to include trees in a line. The EFA value will remain the same - each metre of length equals 10 sq.m of area for EFA. Providing you claim this option, you have management responsibility for both sides of the hedge and/or line of trees.
4. Buffer strip option extended to field margins
The EFA buffer strips option is extended to include field margins as well as buffer strips. In addition to buffer strips adjacent or parallel with a water course, farmers can also claim field margins towards their EFA. The minimum width of 1m remains. The EFA value of field margins will be the same as EFA buffer strips - every 1m in length equals 9sq.m of area for EFA.
5. Minimum eight week catch crop
EFA catch crops must be maintained for a minimum of eight weeks starting on August 20, 2018 and must be retained until at least October 14, 2018. The period for EFA cover crops remains at October 1 to January 15 of the following year.
6. Nitrogen-fixing crop mixtures
Where EFA nitrogen-fixing crops are claimed, in addition to pure stands of a nitrogen-fixing crop farmers will be allowed to use:
▶ mixtures of different nitrogen-fixing crop species; or
▶ mixtures of nitrogen fixing crops and other crops, as long as over 50 per cent is nitrogen-fixing crops
▶ This more flexible rule applies where 2018 EFA nitrogen-fixing crops are sown in autumn 2017.