SW2: 4m to 6m buffer strip on intensive grassland

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

How much will be paid

£170 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

On the edges of intensively managed, improved grassland fields receiving more than 100kg/ha of nitrogen per year in the form of fertilisers or manures, between the productive part of the field and a 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
  • ditches, rivers and streams

This option can also be used:

  • next to trackways that channel runoff water directly to a watercourse
  • next to 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

It provides new habitat and protects existing landscape features.

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


  • establish or maintain a 4 to 6m wide grass buffer strip during the first 12 months of the agreement
  • leave an uncut buffer strip 4 to 6m wide around the edge of any fields that will be mown (livestock can graze this strip along with the aftermath)
  • only cut the sward to control woody growth
  • 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
  • input records showing that the grassland has received more than 100kg of nitrogen per ha per year

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

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 required or being paid for through another scheme.

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 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

Applicants should consider using option SW11 - Riparian management strip on sloping fields next to a watercourse where there is a risk of soil erosion, runoff or bankside trampling.

Further information

See the Mid Tier manual or Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.

  2. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  3. First published.