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The new ACRES scheme – Teagasc notes on what you need to know

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Stock photo.

Stock photo.

Stock photo.

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Tillage farmers, is the new ACRES scheme for you?

Tillage farmers with over 30ha of arable land will have a very strong chance of being accepted into the new ACRES scheme as a Tier 2 applicant. In order to ensure they are in Tier 2, they must also carry out at least one of the following measures within the scheme: Minimum Tillage; Catch crops; Over-winter stubble; Grass Margins Arable or Grass Margins Grassland.

If registered as an organic farmer, they will automatically get priority access into the ACRES scheme as a Tier 1 applicant.

So what measures of the scheme might suit a tillage farmer best?

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Minimum tillage

By committing to establish crops with a min-till method rather than ploughing on at least 10ha of land for each year of the five year scheme, this will ensure the farmer meets the Tier 2 standard for access into ACRES. A payment rate of €40 per ha is payable on crops established via min-till, subject to a max payment for this measure of €2,000 (50ha). The parcel of ground does not have to be the same parcel for the entire five years (as in previous schemes). It can be rotated which should prove to be a very popular measure for larger tillage farmers who in recent years have been establishing a growing part of their crops enterprise with a min-till system.

Catch crops

Sowing a minimum of 6ha of catch crops will also ensure a tillage farmer (with over 30 ha arable) Tier 2 status. This measure pays €173.20/ha, up to a maximum of 20ha. So potentially that’s another €3,464 from the scheme. The catch crop must be sown by September 15 (using non-inversion techniques) and remain in the ground until January 1 each year. The catch crop area can also be rotated around the farm each year. A minimum of two species must be in the catch crop mix.

Over Winter Stubble

A new measure not previously in GLAS is the Over Winter Stubble. This involves providing a winter food source for seed-eating birds that feed on spilt grains and seeds of broad-leaved weeds. After harvesting a cereal crop, oilseed rape or linseed, farmers cultivate the soil to encourage the emergence of green cover. The stubbles must remain in situ until February 1, and the parcels chosen can be rotated around the farm each year. By carrying out this measure on a minimum of 4ha, a tillage farmer (with over 30ha arable) ensures Tier 2 status entry into ACRES. This measure pays €86 per ha, up to a maximum of 50ha, so potentially €4,300 for a large tillage farm.

Grass margin – arable

A very similar measure to this was the arable grass margins in the GLAS scheme. Farmers who chose this measure in GLAS sowed a special grass mix around the margins of tillage fields for five years. For those farmers, they can continue with those grass margins. If doing so, they must not plough the existing arable grass margins, but instead over-sow it with a mix of Cocksfoot 10kg/ha, Timothy 4kg/ha and Red Clover 1kg/ha. If choosing this action for the first time, once the mix is sown, then no further cultivation to the margin is allowed. The margin must remain in place for the five years of the scheme. After August 31, and before January 15, the margin must be either mown or mulched. The margin chosen can be either 3m, 4m, 6m or 8m wide. The rate of payment is paid per linear length of margin and varies depending on the width of margin chosen, but roughly equates to €1,275 per ha.

If a tillage farmer chooses a minimum of 500m linear length of this arable grass margin, they will gain Tier 2 priority access to ACRES, again provided they have over 30ha arable crops on their farm. The maximum linear length payable under this measure is 2,500m.

Other measures

This is just a quick flavour of the main measures tillage farmers may consider. Other measures such as unharvested cereal headlands, environmental management of arable fallow, winter bird food, brassica fodder stubble and riparian buffer zones/strips may also be suitable measures for your farm. There is the potential to bring in €7,300 per annum from the general ACRES scheme, so have a chat with your farm advisor to examine which options best suit your farm.


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