GAEC 1: Establishment of buffer strips along watercourses
Water courses must be protected against pollution and run-off from agricultural sources by maintaining buffer strips.
‘Watercourses’ are all surface waters, including coastal water, estuaries, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, canals and field ditches. It includes temporarily dry watercourses.
What you must do
- take all reasonable steps to maintain a green cover on land within 2 metres of the centre of a watercourse or field ditch, or to land from the edge of the watercourse or field ditch to 1 metre on the landward side of the top of the bank. This rule does not apply to land forming part of a parcel of 2 hectares or less until 1 January 2017.
- produce and keep a map of your holding if you spread organic manure, which should show:
- all surface waters and land within 10 metres of them
- all springs, wells and boreholes on your holding or within 50 metres of the boundary and land within 50 metres of them
- update the map with any changes within 3 months from the date of change.
If your land is in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs), you can use the same map for both NVZs and GAEC 1.
What you must not do
You must not:
- apply manufactured nitrogen within 2 metres of surface water
- apply organic manure within 50 metres of a spring, well or borehole
- apply organic manure (which is any nitrogen or phosphate fertiliser derived from animal, plant or human sources and includes livestock manure) within 10 metres of surface water.
The limit ‘within 10 metres of surface water’ is reduced to 6 metres if you apply slurry, sewage sludge or anaerobic digestate (which is the product of anaerobic digestion other than from the anaerobic digestion of sewage or material in a landfill) using precision equipment as follows:
- a trailing hose band spreader or a trailing shoe band spreader
- a shallow injector which injects the organic manure no deeper than 10 centimetres below the surface
- a dribble bar applicator.
However, you can spread livestock manure within 10 metres of surface water if the land is managed for breeding wader birds or as species-rich semi-natural grassland under certain restrictions. These are:
- the land must be in an agri-environment scheme, or notified as a SSSI
- the manure is not slurry or poultry manure
- spreading takes place between 1 June and 31 October inclusive
- the manure is not spread directly onto surface water, and
- the total annual amount isn’t more than 12.5 tonnes per hectare.
If you have land in a NVZs and follow the rules under SMR 1, you will automatically meet the rules above under GAEC 1 on that land, with the exception of the first bullet under ‘What you must do’.
Cultivation and application of fertilisers or pesticides
You must not:
- cultivate or apply fertilisers or pesticides to land within 2 metres of the centre of a watercourse or field ditch, or to land from the edge of the watercourse or field ditch to 1 metre on the landward side of the top of the bank of a watercourse or field ditch. This does not apply to land forming part of a parcel of 2 hectares or less until 1 January 2017.
Fertilisers include: inorganic and organic fertiliser, organic manures, lime, slurry, sewage sludge, slag, trace elements, calcified seaweed and human waste (this list is not exhaustive). Pesticides mean anything used for destroying pests and include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and other biocides.
This rule will not be breached if:
- you have used pesticides for spot application to control the spread of any of the following weeds
- you have used pesticides for spot application to control the spread of any of the following weeds:
- broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius)
- creeping or field thistle (Cirsium arvense)
- curled dock (Rumex crispus)
- giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
- Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
- Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica)
- ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)
- rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum
- spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
- you are establishing a green cover where one does not exist and the land is part of a field which is being newly created (by merger or division)
- you are establishing a green cover where one does not exist and the land was previously outside the scope of cross compliance
- you have been granted a derogation by RPA. You must apply to RPA in writing for a derogation and wait for written permission before acting, so that you make sure you, adhere to any conditions attached.
Public rights of way
Public rights of way may form part of the 1 metre or 2 metres ‘protection zone’ margins along hedges and watercourses. When they do, the rules of this GAEC still apply but shouldn’t limit public access.
Contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for more information about derogations which may be available.
Advice on locating and managing buffer strips is available from Catchment Sensitive Farming officers, Natural England advisers, Campaign for the Farmed Environment and other advisers.
Rural Payments Agency: 03000 200 301
Environment Agency: 03708 506 506