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Arable Reversion to Grassland

Option closed to new applications

Introduction/What is this about

The quality of Scotland's water environment is generally good. However, many of Scotland's river water bodies are at risk of not meeting the Water Framework Directive (WFD) objectives due to diffuse water pollution, principally from agriculture and forestry.

The aim of this Option is to convert problem areas within arable fields that are prone to flooding, run-off and/or erosion to permanent grassland.

What will this achieve

This will provide benefits to water, and potentially to soil quality, as well as having associated biodiversity benefits.

Arable reversion to grassland will reduce nitrate leaching, soil erosion risk and the transport of sediment and associated phosphate to watercourses.

There are only small losses of nitrate in the drainage waters from arable reversion grassland. The permanent vegetation cover minimises the erosion of soil particles and thus the loss of P in surface run-off.

What you must do

Identify risk areas through a specialist Diffuse Pollution Audit or Soil and Water Management Programme. Identify fields or areas within fields that are prone to flooding, runoff and/or erosion risk from arable farming and convert them to grassland.

The grass sward must be established by sowing a suitable mix of grass seed, which may include one or more species of nectar-feeding plant, such as red clover, into a sterile seedbed. A normal medium to long term grass ley mixture would be suitable provided that it has a component of seeds of flowering plants. Examples of nectar plants are Red Clover, Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Yarrow and Common Vetch.

Any areas of soil compaction should be addressed before grass seed is sown.

Once the sward is established:

  • Maintain the grass sward for a period of 5 years.
  • Only apply sufficient fertiliser initially to establish the grass sward
  • Do not apply lime or fertilisers
  • Do not apply pesticides to the managed area except with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers for activities such as spot treatment of scheduled weeds (i.e. creeping, spear or field thistle, curled or broadleaved dock and common ragwort) or non-native invasive species (i.e. Giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, Rhododendron ponticum or Japanese knotweed). Where land is located in wet areas and adjacent to water sources SEPA must also be consulted prior to treatment
  • Do not cultivate
  • Do not clear existing drains or cut new drains except with prior written permission of Scottish Ministers

Who can apply (including geographical element)

All land managers with arable land are eligible to apply for this Option.

Priority should be given to applications in priority areas, e.g. where diffuse pollution from agriculture has been identified as a pressure affecting watercourses, especially those identified as at risk of failing to meet WFD good ecological status by 2015. Priority may also be given to collaborative applications, which recognises the fact that diffuse pollution pressures are often individually insignificant but at a catchment scale can have a significant impact.

Suitable areas should be identified through either a specialist diffuse pollution audit or a soil and water management plan.

Eligibility criteria

Land receiving management payments under Agri-environment Schemes is not eligible under this Option.

Where a beneficiary has already established a permanent grass sward through a legacy Scheme (including the Rural Stewardship Scheme option Creation and Management of Species Rich Grassland), they are not required to plough it up and re-establish a new one. There should be as short a gap as possible (and no more than a year) between leaving a legacy Scheme and entering this option, and during the gap period, nothing should have been done to the sward which would frustrate its effectiveness in controlling diffuse pollution. Legacy agri-environment schemes cannot be extended beyond their stated terms.

An eligible field is one that has been in an arable crop (cereals, linseeds, oilseed, root crops, fruit crops or protein crops) or under set aside or lying fallow as part of a normal rotation in one or more years during the 5 years prior to the 15th May in the year you submitted your application to Rural Priorities (Statement of Intent).

What costs could be supported

For a comprehensive list to Capital Items click here. Any cost claimed must be fully justified. The following are examples of what may be claimed for:

The annual payment for this Option includes compensation for the loss of potential income from arable crops and also the additional cost of sowing the area to grass. The "laying down species-rich grassland" capital item cannot be claimed under this Option.

When completing your Proposal, you can select the appropriate capital item(s) from the dropdown list of standard cost capital items for this Option.

In addition to the above capital items, financial support of up to 100% of eligible actual costs is available in respect of the following:

Please note that these capital items will not appear in the dropdown list of Standard Cost capital items for this Option and will need to be entered manually in the box for Actual Cost capital items. Only costs for the types of capital works listed above should be entered in the Actual Cost capital items box for this Option. Any other costs entered cannot be considered for funding.

To ensure value for money we require you to provide 2 competitive quotes for any capital items applied for which are based on actual cost. If, however, you are seeking grant support towards something so specialised it is only available through 1 source then we would accept 1 quote. Please see the guidance on quotes and estimates for more information.

Rate of support

This is a 5-year commitment. For the conversion and management of grassland, we will pay you £240.74 per hectare and for management only £207 per hectare. We will pay at the end of each year.


The inspector will check the requirements (as detailed above under 'what you must do') of the Option are being met, by a visual assessment on the day of inspection.

Beneficiaries must comply with the requirements of cross compliance and the minimum requirements for fertiliser and plant protection products (detailed in links below).

The following is a brief overview of the inspection procedures, for a full explanation please see links below:

Inspectors will check:

  • Your Diffuse Pollution Audit OR; Soil and Water Management Programme
  • Establishment of the grass sward
  • Visual check to ensure no fertiliser/FYM/Slurry has been applied after establishment of the grass sward

List of links to relevant technical guidance

Refer to:

Farm Soils Plan

Section on 'On the spot' inspections

Minimum requirements for Fertiliser and Plant Protection Products - detailed guidance

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