SW13: Very low nitrogen inputs to groundwaters

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the very low nitrogen inputs to groundwaters option.

How much will be paid

£251 per hectare (ha)

Where to use this option

Available for Higher Tier

Whole parcel

Only on improved grassland that meets each of the following requirements:

  • the area receives more than 200kg of nitrogen per ha per year
  • the area is a specified as a priority Water Framework Directive (WFD) groundwater failure within the Countryside Stewardship targeting, for which this option is a priority
  • this option must be applied to all land parcels within the target area

To use this option an applicant must also meet one of the following conditions:

  • 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

How this option will benefit the environment

It will reduce nutrient input to grassland in highly targeted locations to help slow or reverse nutrient levels in groundwater. This will be targeted to help specific designated sites and Water Framework Directive Protected Areas.


Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • graze or cut for hay or silage to get an average sward height of between 5cm and 15cm in November
  • make sure bare ground covers less than 10% of the total area by year 2

The agreement will set out what must not be done. It is likely agreement holders will not be allowed to:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed
  • supplementary feed except for the provision of mineral blocks (non-energy based)
  • use pesticides or herbicides, except to spot-treat or weed-wipe to control injurious weeds, invasive non-natives, nettles or bracken
  • apply manures or fertilisers except when the parcel is cut, and limit this to either 12 tonnes of well-rotted farmyard manure per ha per year or up to 50kg of nitrogen per ha per year

Keeping records

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

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected to the work
  • records of all management activity on the option area for each parcel
  • a monthly record of the number of livestock grazing the land

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

Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • 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

The detailed requirements for this option will be tailored to the Higher Tier site. Applicants should discuss and agree these requirements with their adviser.

The following options 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 is only available in targeted areas. The targeting is restricted to specified areas to improve the quality of groundwater feeding into at risk (nitrogen-limited) designated sites and failing groundwater drinking water protected areas.

This option will also be restricted to areas where grassland is the major agricultural land use, ie at least 80% of land is grassland receiving more than 200 kg nitrogen per hectare per year.

Further information

See the 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.