Countryside Stewardship Schemes Explained

CAP Reform Options:


There are now two new schemes under CAP:

  • Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)
  • Rural Development Programme (RDP)

Both are aimed at improving the number of species in our countryside, particularly focusing on insects and bird life, as well as improving soils and waterways. Biodiversity is the key driver.

The BPS incorporates the compulsory ’Greening Rule’ which gives options for Permanent Grassland, Crop    Diversification and Ecological Focus Areas (EFA). The RDP includes  the new environmental scheme known as the ‘Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS). It is split into 3 groups which began in January 2016.

  • Higher Tier (Replaces HLS)
  • Mid Tier (Replaces ELS)
  • Lower Tier (Capital Grants)

Most ELS or HLS schemes previously undertaken will continue.

Countryside Stewardship:

Countryside Stewardship (CS) will replace Environmental Stewardship, The English Woodland Grant and Capital Grants from the catchment sensitive farming programme. The new scheme is delivered by Natural England, The Forestry Commission and the Rural Payments Agency and has three main elements; Higher Tier, Mid Tier and Lower Tier.

Higher Tier.

For the most environmentally important sites and woodland.

Mid Tier.

Option to address a wide range of environmental issues including water pollution and improving the farmed environment for birds and pollinators.

Within the two tiers applicants may choose a specific group of management options that will bring benefits to wild pollinators, farmland birds and other farm wildlife.

Options as follows

  • Pollen and nectar resources for pollinators and chick food for birds
  • Nesting sites for birds and pollinators
  • Winter food for seed eating birds

Farmers applying for this package score more highly in CS applications


Basic Payment Scheme:

The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) replaced single payment Scheme on 01/01/2015 and under the BPS farmers and landowners are required to meet the “Greening Rules” in order to receive a greening Payment.


Catch Crops and Cover Crops

Catch crops must be established by 31st August and kept until at least 1st October.

Cover crops must be established by 1st October and kept until at least 15th January.

Either option must have a mix of at least two different allowable crops, 1 cereal and one non-cereal, must establish quickly, achieve good ground cover and have different root depths.

Allowable crops are: Rye, Oats, Barley, Phacelia, Mustard, Vetch, Lucerne and Oil Radish. Grass can also be used but it must be undersown in the previous crop and established. Minimum area= 0.01ha (100m2)

Weighting– 1 metre in length will count as 0.3m2

Nitrogen Fixing Crops

An eligible list of leguminous crops has been published, see below. Legumes with grass cannot be counted. Nitrogen fixing crops must be in the ground between the 1st May and 30th June. Minimum plot size 0.01ha.

WEIGHTING– 1 metre in length will count as 0.7m2

Use: Peas, Beans, Vetch, Lucerne, Sanfoin, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Black Medick, Red, White, Crimson, Alsike and Yellow Blossom Clovers.

Fallow Land

Fallow period is from 1st January to 30th June.

A minimum width of 2m and minimum area of 0.01ha. Wild Bird Mixtures & Nectar Rich mixtures are encouraged. Temporary grass & Buffer Strips can be managed as “Fallow”. Grass can be sown during the fallow period as long as there is no “production” grazing or cutting during the fallow period. Fallow land can be mown but the cuttings must be left on the land. Grass can be utilised after the Fallow Period.

Weighting– 1 metre in length will count as 1.0m2

Buffer Strips

Must be next to or run parallel with a watercourse. Minimum width of 1 metre. The same buffer strips can be used to meet both greening and cross compliance rules.

WEIGHTING– 1 metre in length will count as 9m2


Hedges need to be next to arable land. Minimum length 20 metres, with no minimum height or width. Newly planted hedges are eligible.

WEIGHTING– 1 metre in length will count as 10m2