Changes aplenty in new AEOS payments
Next Monday is the deadline for applications to the Department of Agriculture's revamped AEOS. Payment rates remain the same as last year's scheme, although the maximum annual payment has been reduced to €4,000 a year.
The rates quoted here are annual payments paid for five full calendar years. The same options remain, except traditional orchards are omitted because of a shortage of traditional apple trees.
There are some major changes apart from the new maximum limit. There are limits to the extent of most options undertaken. There is also a requirement to take soil samples and all fencing must comply with Department fencing specifications.
Only land that has not been cultivated in the past eight years is eligible for a species-rich grassland and traditional hay meadow. Payment is €314/ha. The maximum area allowed is 10ha of each. Both may be claimed on Natura land instead of the Natura payment of €75/ha.
Species-rich grassland must contain at least five 'positive' indicator species, such as those pictured above. It must not have more than 20pc of the 'negative' indicator species, such as ryegrass and clover. No artificial fertiliser, slurry, farmyard manure or other organic material can be applied and it may not be topped until after July 15.
Mechanical control or spot-treatment with herbicide of noxious weeds and rushes is allowed.
Nitrogen is restricted to 30kg/ha on meadows. They must be closed after April 1, cut after July 15 and the aftermath may be grazed. Where hay cannot be saved, you can make silage but you must turn it at least twice before collecting it, to let the seeds disperse.