Farmers joining forces to protect the environment are to be given an extra £600,000 after Natural England received a record number of high-quality applications to the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund.
The fund is designed to reward farmers who come together to work out the best ways to improve the natural environment, including wildlife habitats, across their land boundaries.
Defra made the decision to top up the pot of available cash in order to ensure groups of farmers with important work to do would be able to access funding.
The fourth round of the competitive fund, which closed in November last year, saw farmers from Cornwall to Northumberland sign up to new agreements.
They joined 61 other groups across the country in maintaining 450,000 hectares.
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “I am very pleased to see 37 new nature conservation groups established with over 700 members involved.
“The facilitation fund we have established aims to support partnership working and bring together farmers and other land managers to deliver local conservation projects.
“It is particularly encouraging to see how many high quality applications we received, which we hope to replicate across the Countryside Stewardship scheme following the steps we have taken to simplify the wildlife packages.”