GS2: Permanent grassland with very low inputs (outside SDAs)

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the permanent grassland with very low inputs (outside sdas) option.

How much will be paid

£95 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier.

Whole parcel (except when located with GS1)

Only on:

  • permanent grassland outside severely disadvantaged areas (SDAs) and below the moorland line

This option can only be used if one or more of the following criteria are met:

  • the grassland qualifies as semi-improved or species-rich (see Permanent grassland with very low input options eligibility assessment)
  • to help the sustainable management and buffering of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) or priority habitats
  • to maintain grassland to conserve species of national or regional importance, or protect historic or archaeological features
  • when in-field scrub cover is less than 1% and the option will be used in target areas for ground-nesting wading birds
  • as part of the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package (see Mid Tier manual section 8.3)
  • on parcels adjacent to a permanent watercourse

Where this option cannot be used

Part parcel (except when located with GS1)

Features that can be included in this option

The following features can be included if they are part of the land, even if they are ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):

  • ditches, dykes, drains, rivers, streams that are less than 4m wide for the majority of their length in the parcel
  • temporary water
  • permanent water up to 0.1ha
  • natural unsurfaced roads, tracks, paths and bridleways, as long as the Requirements can still be met
  • bracken
  • areas of scree, rock outcrops and boulders - each area can cover up to 0.1ha
  • grazed woodland and scrub that allows livestock access and has grass underneath

How this option will benefit the environment

If successful there will be:

  • more flowering grass and wildflower species
  • varied structures offering nectar and shelter for invertebrates
  • increased food supply for birds

Requirements

  • graze or cut for hay or silage
  • remove any cuttings
  • maintain a sward with a range of heights during the growing season so that at least 20% is less than 7cm and 20% is more than 7cm. No height variation needs to be maintained when the field is closed up for a cut of hay or silage.
  • on non-calcareous grassland, maintain soil between pH 5.4 and pH 6.0, unless the target is to maintain acid grassland. This can be done by liming, but do not apply paper waste or other industrial by-products.
  • when a parcel is cut for hay, haylage or silage, or grazed, either up to 12 tonnes/ha of farmyard manure can be applied, or fertiliser at a maximum rate of:
    • 9 kg/ha nitrogen
    • 23 kg/ha phosphate
    • 83 kg/ha potash
  • applications of fertiliser must not be increased if the current rate is less than this
  • graze or cut areas of dense rush growth so that they cover 20% or less of the parcel area and are less than 20 cm high by 30 September
  • where scrub cover is less than 5%, keep areas of well-established scrub in separate small patches, lines and occasional individual bushes across the site
  • where scrub cover is equal to or above 5%, maintain between 5% and 10% scrub cover over the parcel
  • keep historic and archaeological features free of scrub

Do not:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed
  • use pesticides, except for herbicides to spot-treat or weed-wipe to control nettles, bracken, injurious weeds or invasive non-native species
  • cut more than one-half of scrub in any one year, except on historic and archaeological features
  • harrow or roll on historic or archaeological features
  • use supplementary feed except for mineral blocks
  • allow bare ground to cover more than 5% of the option area, and only in the form of small, well-distributed areas
  • allow bare ground to develop on historic or archaeological features
  • allow more than 5 square metres of localised patches of bare ground around rabbit warrens by year 2
  • top more than 50% of the total area in any one year
  • carry out drainage works, including modifying existing drainage, without Natural England’s written permission before work starts

Restrictions that apply on certain dates

  • 15 March to 20 June - do not apply fertiliser or manure
  • 15 March to 30 June - do not cut for hay or silage
  • 15 March to 15 July - do not operate machinery or allow activities that disturb breeding birds; do not cut bracken
  • 15 March to 31 July - do not cut rush
  • 1 Oct to 31 July - do not top except in patches to control injurious weeds and invasive non-native species

Keeping records

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

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • a standard soil analysis to be completed in the final agreement year and results submitted with the final claim
  • any sites grazed will require a grazing activity record

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 management undertaken

Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • evidence to show that the land is eligible, as listed above
  • photographs showing the extent of scrub
  • a map of the land drainage system, or statement that the land is not drained
  • by the submission of the first claim, applicants will need to submit a laboratory soil analysis including at least pH and phosphate (P)

These options and supplements can be located in 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.

Choose the right location

Grassland which contains rare plant species is clearly valuable. It can still be valuable, and suited to this option, if it contains commoner species:

  • legumes such as red clover, lesser trefoil and black medick
  • herbs such as ribwort plantain and yarrow
  • attractive wildflowers such as selfheal and germander speedwell

Low input grassland is most valuable when located alongside other important landscape features such as scrub and wetlands in a mosaic approach.

Grassland is also the best protection for historic and archaeological features, as long as plants with powerful roots like scrub or bracken do not take hold, and bare ground does not develop.

Managing the sward

The land will be much more valuable for insects, birds and other animals if it has a varied, patchy structure all year round, as detailed under requirements. It is much easier to achieve this structure by grazing with cattle than by grazing with sheep only.

Grazing may be rotational or intermittent, but the stock should eat the sward down well during the grazing periods to avoid it becoming rank during the rest periods.

Wet areas can be important sources of insect food and should be maintained where possible.

Check for breeding birds before operating machinery, even outside the closed periods.

Further information

See the illustrated guide Farming the historic landscape: caring for archaeological sites in grassland

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