Most growers should be able to meet Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements without having to rely on cover crops and pulses.
That is the view of Agrii farm management consultant Paul Pickford.
Fifty-five per cent of the 2016 EFA requirement was met by nitrogen fixing crops, however, a ban on use of pesticides on these areas for 2018 has led to growers rethinking their cropping plans.
Mr Pickford advised growers to measure existing features such as buffer strips when working out EFAs. “It is the same as for cross compliance. There are enough options with hedges, ditches, field margins, buffer strips and existing fallow without having to rely on cover crops and pulses.”
Including cover crops in EFA calculations could be risky if some of the crop failed and this was picked up in an RPA inspection, warned Mr Pickford. It also restricts growers to cover crop mixtures approved by RPA which may not necessarily be the most appropriate from an agronomic point of view, he added.
Mr Pickford said he expected to see growing of pulses to meet EFA requirements fall to a ‘few per cent’.