SFI pilot: Two arable farmers share their experiences so far

The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) pilot is giving farmers an opportunity to help kind the best way ahead for farming in England, with people with the flexibility to pick out the necessities and ambition ranges to go nicely with their land.

Ahead of the first SFI necessities launching later this yr, Farmers Weekly spoke to 2 growers who’ve been taking part inside the pilot scheme, to hunt out out whether or not it’s working for them and the best way they see it evolving.

Whereas neither has obtained their settlement from Defra however, every recognise that such a radical overhaul of land use and meals manufacturing desires farmer involvement and two-way recommendations.

See moreover: How the model new Arable Soils Commonplace might help fill the BPS gap

Charlie Edgley, Kensham Farms, Buckinghamshire

Charlie Edgley in a field of stubble

© Defra/YouTube

The prospect to modify numerous the misplaced BPS funding and work together with the model new scheme whereas there was a chance to have an effect on it persuaded Chilterns grower Charlie Edgley to participate inside the SFI pilot.

Impressed by Defra’s open and supportive angle, he utilized for the intermediate stage of the arable land commonplace at £54/ha and the superior stage of the arable soils commonplace at £60/ha.

Arable land – intermediate stage: Particulars

  • Current sources for birds and pollinators on 8% of eligible land
  • Help quite a lot of farm wildlife
  • Full a whole-farm nutrient value vary
  • Do soil mapping
  • Deal with ditches

Arable soils – superior stage: Particulars

  • Arrange inexperienced cowl by end of September on 15% of land entered
  • Add pure matter (on 20% of land entered)
  • Create a soil administration plan

“The funds aren’t as extreme as I might love, as there could also be work involved,” he says. “Nevertheless now we have now been altering the best way wherein we farm and have on a regular basis taken our environmental duties considerably, so it was an obvious step.”

Overlaying 850ha near Extreme Wycombe, along with some steep and stony land, the farm was in Entry Diploma Stewardship for 10 years.

When that accomplished, Mr Edgley saved the numerous environmental choices resembling wildflower margins in place, even though he decided in the direction of a mid-tier Countryside Stewardship settlement.

Consequently, meeting the requirements of the intermediate arable land commonplace has been fairly easy.

With wildflower strips and nesting cowl already in place, he solely wanted to alternate an house of crops with winter fowl seed to meet the 8% objective of eligible land in year-round sources.

Superior soils

For the superior soils commonplace, he opted for total fields of cover crops to avoid having bare land, inserting in 80ha of a buckwheat, mustard and fodder radish mix after harvest.

In place from August by the use of to October, they’ve since been sprayed off and drilled with winter wheat, which has established properly.

“We start wheat drilling in October, so we don’t have the required sown inexperienced cowl in September with out using cowl crops,” he explains.

“They’ve helped to alleviate compaction and create tilth, and we hope they’ve accomplished some nutrient recycling.”

Self-discipline operations have on a regular basis been accomplished all through slopes, every for soil erosion and safety causes, and soils had been already being sampled on a five-year cycle.

“Any longer we’ll doubtless be along with pure matter ranges with them,” reveals Mr Edgley. “They’re already elevated than I believed that they had been, and there’s a great deal of worm train.”

Cultivations have modified considerably over time, turning into shallower for value and environmental causes.

Two years previously, he took advantage of grant funding to buy a direct drill, which means he can drill straight into stubble when circumstances allow.

Mapping software program program

His experience with the SFI pilot has been constructive so far, aside from frustrations encountered with mapping because of discrepancies with BPS areas.

His advice to others is to place cash into good mapping software program program.

“I hope that’s been resolved,” he says. “I’ve wanted to take it on perception that the scheme goes ahead. I haven’t obtained my settlement however.”

No matter having an unlimited house of hedgerows, he wasn’t tempted by the hedgerow commonplace because of very low charge prices, which he sees as a wasted various for the SFI.

“As compared with what we’ve been used to, it is a lot much less money for additional work,” he says.

Further factor on Charlie Edgley and Kensham Farms could also be current in Defra’s video on the SFI pilot, on the Defra farming weblog

Edward Vipond, Troston Farms, Suffolk

Edward Vipond standing in a field

© Jason Bye

The acquisition of a 230ha block of land in 2018 with no present environmental scheme on it gave farm supervisor Edward Vipond – the current Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Yr – an excellent motive to make use of for the SFI pilot.

The model new land was very completely completely different to most of his completely different ground – there have been just a few environmental choices on it, the majority was in giant, sq. fields and it had irrigation for rising potatoes and onions.

“It had tons going in the direction of it,” elements out Mr Vipond. “We had been eager about giving the SFI pilot a go and thought that if it labored there, it may work anyplace.”

He took a protracted, onerous take a look on the necessities set out by Defra and opted for the arable land and soils necessities, every on the introductory stage. They supply £28/ha and £26/ha, respectively.

“Having purchased root crops and an irrigation licence on that block, it wasn’t relevant to go for a greater stage of ambition,” he explains. “We’re capable of’t merely buy a no-till drill and stop ploughing that land.”

Arable land – introductory stage: Particulars

  • Current sources for birds and pollinators on 5% of eligible land
  • Create buffers spherical 50% of in-field timber
  • Use a nutrient administration plan
  • Use low-emission utilized sciences

Arable Soils – introductory stage: Particulars

  • Full a soil analysis
  • Alleviate soil compaction
  • Arrange inexperienced cowl by mid-October on 5% of land entered
  • Add soil pure matter to twenty% of land entered

Hedgerows – introductory stage: Particulars

  • Depart not lower than 50% of the hedgerow uncut
  • Hold hedgerow timber, or plant or tag new ones

Too restrictive?

For that purpose, he is concerned that the SFI may be too restrictive for positive farms and enterprise kinds, with productive land in all probability being the least applicable. He illustrates that by declaring that if a proportion of the irrigation licence is simply not utilized by the enterprise, it’ll doubtless be misplaced for future years.

“That makes it pretty rigid, even though it is a straightforward scheme. Countryside Stewardship is additional versatile, which is a bonus the place there are root crops inside the rotation.”

Cowl crops have on a regular basis featured at Troston Farms, so their inclusion was a foregone conclusion and they also went in on the model new block. “We had already decided to plant them; it’s the becoming issue to do for a whole host of causes,” Mr Vipond says.

His cowl crops on completely different components of the farm are grazed with sheep, so he is desirous to know whether or not or not he can proceed to do that beneath the SFI phrases.

By the use of meeting the soils commonplace, enhancing pure matter ranges has been taking place for a while and Mr Vipond has every intention of steady with that observe.

“We have purchased conflicting messages about how to do that from the Environment Firm, which desires discovering out. If we’re capable of’t use farmyard manure inside the autumn we should always depend upon chopped straw.”

In another case, he’ll rotate muckspreading throughout the farm ahead of the maize and sugar beet crops, providing the underside circumstances are applicable.


Mr Vipond moreover chosen the hedgerow commonplace, no matter what he describes as its very lukewarm charge of £16/100m.

That commits him to slicing solely a positive proportion of them yearly and to planting hedgerow timber.

“As soon as extra, we’re already there. We have been planting 50 oak timber per yr for some time and might proceed to take motion.”

By the use of the shared learnings with Defra, there was little or no communication so far, he opinions. “There’s a webinar inside the near future, nonetheless it might be good to have some enter from them.”

He hasn’t obtained an settlement however, or any charge – just a few apologies for delays. “That is an excessive amount of just like the administration of the Countryside Stewardship schemes for my liking,” he says.

On the plus aspect, the net software program course of was easy and the administration timings labored properly. “It’s good to have the prospect to re-shape points as there is a hazard that it may develop into too restrictive.”

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