EFS – benefits for water quality and farmland biodiversity

Date published: 21 March 2017

Improving Water Quality

Fence off watercourses to reduce land loss.

Improving water quality is a key aim of EFS and a number of options within the scheme have been designed to reduce the possibility of farm nutrients or soil getting into a watercourse. These include the creation of a buffer strip between fields and watercourses. These buffers provide a natural barrier to reduce the amount of soil and pollutants from manures, chemical fertilisers and pesticides carried into watercourses by run-off and also keep livestock back from the bank. Two different widths of buffer are on offer (2m or 10m), either with or without planting trees. 

Planting trees will increase the effectiveness of the buffers by reducing some potential pollutant transfer and will also add to the general environmental benefit of the option. Other options within the scheme to improve water quality include ‘Watercourse stabilisation with fencing’ to keep livestock out of rivers and streams. Fencing will prevent livestock trampling the river bank and as a result greatly reduce land/soil loss to the river. 

Supporting Biodiversity

Biodiversity on Northern Ireland farmland has declined in recent years. In response to this, a variety of land management options, primarily for arable land, have been developed within EFS to benefit a wide range of wildlife. These include the use of margins around fields. Farmers can receive payments for establishing margins to grow rough grasses, wild flowers or a mix of pollen and nectar rich plants important for bees and other pollinators. 

Cultivated margins around crops can simply be left un-cropped as a resource for wildlife. Support is also available for actively growing winter feeding crops for wild birds or simply retaining stubble over the winter for the benefit of seed eating farmland birds. 

The EFS remains open for applications until 31 March 2017. Application is online only and you need a Government gateway account to apply. If you need a Gateway ID you can obtain one via DAERA Online Services.

More information about all the options available under the EFS is available on the DAERA website If you have any other queries, you can contact the EFS Advisory Team on 0300 200 7848 or email: areabasedschemes@daera-ni.gov.uk.

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