The European Commission has published updated greening rules which will come into effect from January 1, 2018.
The main changes to the 2018 greening rules include a complete ban on use of plant protection products on Ecological Focus Area (EFA) fallow land, EFA catch and cover crops, and EFA nitrogen-fixing crops.
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, according to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).
As part of crop diversification, an area can be declared ‘mixed crops’ that contains small areas of different crops grown next to each other. Individually these would otherwise be too small to claim (these are areas less than 0.01ha) but can be claimed as one ‘mixed crop’ area, explains RPA.
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 10sq.m of area for EFA (as long as if this option is claimed the recipient has management responsibility for both sides of the hedge and/or line of trees), says RPA.
The EFA buffer strips option is extended in definition to include field margins as well as buffer strips. In addition to buffer strips adjacent or parallel with a water course, field margins can also be claimed towards EFA. The minimum width of one metre remains.
The EFA value of field margins will be the same as EFA buffer strips - every metre in length equals 9sq.m of area for EFA, according to RPA.
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.
If EFA nitrogen-fixing crops are claimed, in addition to pure stands of a nitrogen-fixing crop, mixtures of different nitrogen-fixing crop species; or mixtures of nitrogen fixing crops and other crops, as long as more than 50% is nitrogen-fixing crops, will be permitted. This more flexible rule only applies if 2018 EFA nitrogen-fixing crops are sown in autumn 2017, according to RPA.