SW1: 4m to 6m buffer strip on cultivated land

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the 4m to 6m buffer strip on cultivated land option.

How much will be paid

£419 per hectare (ha)

Where to use this option

Available for Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier and Higher Tier.

On the edges of cultivated fields, between the productive part of the field and an existing feature or habitat (which must be identified on the Farm Environment Record (FER)), such as:

  • hedgerows and hedge trees remnants of trees on former boundary lines
  • stone walls
  • woodlands
  • ponds, ditches, rivers and streams

It can also be used next to:

  • trackways that channel runoff water directly to a watercourse
  • fence lines that form links between areas of wildlife habitat identified on the FER

Where this option cannot be used

  • Overlapping a public right of way (such as a footpath or bridleway).

The following options can be used on the same area as this option.

How this option will benefit the environment

A grass buffer strip may provide new habitat, protect existing landscape features, and improve water quality.

Next to existing features, it will provide habitat for wildlife, and form links or corridors between other habitats.

Next to a watercourse, it will also prevent pollutants, such as sediment and nutrients, from being transported in surface water runoff.


If you’re selected for a site visit, we will check that delivery of the aims is being met and the prohibited activities have not been carried out. This will ensure the environmental benefits are being delivered.

Throughout the year there will be a 4 to 6 metre (m) wide grass strip. Establish this during the first year and maintain for the period of the agreement. There will be an intact grass sward with no evidence of damage from vehicle or stock access routes.

During late summer, after the bird breeding season, cut part of the strip width next to the crop edge to provide some shorter vegetation.

Prohibited activities

To achieve the aims and deliver the environmental benefits, do not carry out any of the following activities.

  • Apply any fertilisers or manures
  • Use pesticides, except for herbicides to weed wipe or spot treat injurious weeds, invasive non-native species, nettles or bracken
  • Remove fallen timber or the limbs (including lower limbs) of any hedgerow trees that are over 30 centimetres (cm) in diameter at breast height.
  • Cut the remainder of the strip (except to control woody growth)

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you have not carried out any prohibited activities.

To assist you in achieving the aims and deliver the environmental benefits for this option, we recommend that you use best practice.

We recommend that you:

  • once the strip has been established, cut between 1m and 3m of the strip next to the crop edge every year after 15 July
  • only cut the remaining width to control woody growth (leaving aside areas containing fallen timber)
  • where there are hedgerow trees over 30cm in diameter at breast height, leave fallen timber beneath the canopy, stacking any timber that obstructs management of the buffer strip

Keeping Records

Where there is uncertainty about whether the aims of the options have been delivered, we will take into account any records or evidence you may have kept demonstrating delivery of the aims of the option. This will include any steps you’ve taken to follow the recommended management set out above. It’s your responsibility to keep such records if you want to rely on these to support your claim.

  • Field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • Photographs of the strips

Additional guidance and advice

The following advice is helpful, but they are not requirements for this item.

Using this option on existing buffer strips

This option can be used on buffer strips that are already established, unless they are being paid for through another scheme. However, the buffer strip should be on land that can be cultivated (for example, it cannot be on a very steeply banked strip alongside a boundary).

Buffer strips established under Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) can continue to be managed under a new Countryside Stewardship agreement.

How to choose a site

To protect watercourses, create the buffer strip:

  • next to the watercourse
  • across the slope on long, steep slopes, to intercept runoff before it builds to a damaging flow

To benefit wildlife, select a location that links habitats, or that is next to:

  • watercourses
  • hedgerows (particularly hedges with mature hedgerow trees)
  • stone walls
  • remnants of trees on former boundary lines
  • groups of trees in strips along the edge of woodland

To protect archaeological features, create the buffer strip beside:

  • archaeological features located above the ground
  • historic features
  • metal parkland fencing

How to manage the buffer strip

  • remove any subsoil compaction where required to prepare a seedbed, except on archaeological features
  • control weeds and cut regularly in the first 12 to 24 months of establishment to encourage grasses to tiller
  • avoid cutting when the soil is wet to prevent compaction
  • the buffer strip should remain in place and not be re-sown for the duration of the agreement

The buffer strip can be partly covered by a hedge, as long as the hedge is located on land that is eligible for this option.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

This option can form part of an IPM approach to prevent the establishment of pests, weeds and diseases. If successful, appropriate and within proximity of cropped areas, these may limit the need for the use of Plant Protection Products and enhance wildlife and biodiversity on your holding. Read information on IPM at AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) Integrated Pest Management and LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming).

Further information

Read more information about Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 8 February 2022 + show all updates
  1. New payment rate from 1 January 2022.

  2. Additional guidance and advice section updated - this option can form part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to prevent the establishment of pests, weeds and diseases.

  3. 'Air quality' added to Land use.

  4. Option updated for agreements starting 1 January 2022

  5. The Keeping records section of this page has been updated

  6. From 1 January 2019, this option cannot be used on land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

  7. Updated for 2017 applications.

  8. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  9. First published.