SW3: In-field grass strips

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the in-field grass strips option.

How much will be paid

£557 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

  • only on cultivated land identified on the Farm Environment Record (FER) as at risk of soil erosion or surface runoff
  • only on part parcels that are no more than 30% of the parcel area

Where this option cannot be used

  • from 1 January 2019, on land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)

How this option will benefit the environment

Grass areas or strips will help to reduce the quantity of sediment, nutrients and pesticides transported through surface runoff water, both within fields and from field to field.


  • establish or maintain a dense grassy area during the first 12 months of the agreement
  • once it has been established, cut the entire area every year after 15 July
  • exclude all livestock from the strip

Do not:

  • apply any fertilisers or manures
  • use the grassed area 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

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

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

Advice and suggestion 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.

How to achieve the best results

Water infiltration on the grass strip will be improved through appropriate management of the adjoining land. Strips will trap sediment better if large volumes of overland flow are not coming from surrounding land.

This option can be used at the margins of fields that are vulnerable to erosion to capture sediment or materials carried in runoff water.

Creating breaks, such as hedgerows and woodland, on long, steep slopes will complement the grass strips.

How to choose a site

The grass strip should be created:

  • on natural drainage pathways (eg the bottom of a valley) - to stop runoff water from creating rills and gullies
  • on long, sloping fields, with the strip placed parallel to the slope and alternated with wide, cultivated strips - to slow runoff water and trap sediment and organic material
  • not overlapping a public right of way (such as a footpath or bridleway)

How to manage the grass 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

Where there is a need to implement this option on more than 30% of the parcel, applicants should consider instead using option SW7 - Arable reversion to grassland with low fertiliser input to cover a larger area.

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 17 May 2018 + show all updates
  1. 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).

  2. Updated for 2017 applications.

  3. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  4. First published.