SW8: Management of intensive grassland adjacent to a watercourse

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the management of intensive grassland adjacent to a watercourse option.

How much will be paid

£202 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole parcel

Only on grassland that meets each of the following requirements:

  • sloping fields that drain directly into a watercourse
  • it receives more than 200kg/ha of nitrogen per year
  • it is identified on the Farm Environment Record (FER) as at risk of soil erosion or surface runoff, or has been identified as important for buffering sensitive habitats

Applicants must have support from a Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) officer to use this option.

Applicants must also meet one of the following conditions (see Mid Tier manual section 6.7):

  • be following a recommended fertiliser management system to plan nutrient inputs across the farm
  • plan to adopt a recommended fertiliser management system within 18 months of the start of the agreement
  • qualify as a low intensity farmer

Where this option cannot be used

  • on parcels within a severely disadvantaged area (SDA)

How this option will benefit the environment

Reducing stocking density and fertiliser inputs on improved grassland will help reduce soil compaction, surface run-off and risk of diffuse pollution to the watercourse. Reducing surface runoff may help to reduce the risk of flooding. The option may also reduce the risk of nitrate loss to ground and surface water if it is used with SW14 - Nil fertiliser supplement.


  • where it is necessary to reseed, establish a grass sward by 1 October using a seed mixture of at least 5 species (see the section “What to sow” below)
  • from year 2, manage the sward by grazing or cutting to achieve an average sward height of between 5cm and 15cm in November
  • where cutting, cut the sward after 15 July – remove all the cuttings
  • exclude all livestock from 1 October to 15 March
  • make sure that, by year 2, less than 10% of the area is bare ground
  • livestock manures may be applied to supply up to 100 kg/ha of total nitrogen per year - where livestock manures are not used, nitrogen fertiliser can be used to supply no more than 50 kg/ha total nitrogen per year

Do not:

  • use pesticides, except for herbicides to weed wipe or spot treat injurious weeds, invasive non-native species, nettles or bracken
  • apply any manure or fertiliser between 15 August and 1 February

Keeping records

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

  • field operations at parcel level, including associated invoices
  • stock records to show grazing activity on each parcel

Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • written endorsement from a CSF officer
  • evidence that a recommended fertiliser management system is used or evidence to support low intensity farmer claim - this information can be provided with the application or within 18 months of the start of the agreement, as applicable
  • input records showing that the grassland has received more than 200kg of nitrogen per ha per year

The following options and supplements can be located 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.

How to choose the right location

This option should be used in targeted areas to reduce diffuse water pollution. It can also be used to buffer sensitive habitats (ie aquatic habitats designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)) that are under significant threat from diffuse pollution. For further advice on where this option should be used, refer to national and regional targeting guidelines.

This option will not be suitable:

  • if it will have a damaging effect on sites of archaeological interest
  • on sites with pests (eg rabbits, mink, thistles and ragwort) that are not under control, and that prevent land management or threaten the established vegetative cover

Where this option is used to buffer sensitive habitats, it may be combined with SW14 - Nil fertiliser supplement.

How to manage the sward

  • where required to reseed, remove any subsoil compaction except on archaeological features
  • control weeds and cut regularly in the first 12 to 24 months of establishment to encourage grasses to tiller
  • where cutting, avoid doing so when the soil is wet, to prevent compaction
  • remove any cuttings that will otherwise damage the sward
  • manure or fertiliser should not be applied between 15 August and 1 February
  • avoid supplementary feeding, except with mineral blocks

What to sow

Where required to reseed, the choice of grass species should be tailored to the soil type and cutting regime.

The following species will grow in most conditions and can form part of a basic grass seed mixture (however, cocksfoot and timothy should be used with care, as they are tussocky, vigorous and can become dominant):

  • timothy
  • cocksfoot
  • crested dogstail
  • red fescue
  • smooth stalked meadow grass

The environmental benefits can be increased by adding wildflowers. Where adding wildflowers, applicants should ensure that the grass mixture is not too vigorous. Fairly robust flower species should be used, such as:

  • ox-eye daisy
  • black knapweed
  • bird’s-foot-trefoil
  • common sorrel

Catchment Sensitive Farming

Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) operates in parts of the country where there are water quality issues linked to farming. The scheme provides farmers with free advice and training. See guidance for further information on CSF support.

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.