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

£353 per hectare (ha).

If used as Ecological Focus Area (EFA): £79 per ha.

Where to use this option

Available for 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)

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.


  • establish or maintain a 4 to 6m wide grass buffer strip during the first 12 months of the agreement
  • once the strip has been established, cut between 1 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

Do not:

  • remove the limbs (including lower limbs) of any hedgerow trees that are over 30cm in diameter at breast height
  • apply any fertilisers or manures
  • use the buffer strip as an access route for vehicles or stock
  • use pesticides, except for herbicides to weed wipe or spot treat injurious weeds, invasive non-native species, nettles or bracken

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the strips

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

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully, but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

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 (eg 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. See the Mid Tier manual section 6.7.

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