In the seventh of FWi / ADAS’s frequently asked questions regarding Environmental Stewardship schemes ADAS’s David Middleditch, examines the options available for taking unproductive land out of the rotation.

If you have any questions on this or any other Environmental Stewardship matter ADAS experts are on hand to answer them in our dedicated forum on stewardship.

Q. I have a steep section of approximately 0.75 ha in the middle of an arable field. Can ELS help me take this out of production?


A. ELS provides an ideal opportunity to take awkward bits of land out of production. Although the three options that cover this are called ‘field corner management’, the land can be mid-field as well as at the field edge.

The three options are:


  • EF1 (p56) – field corner management on arable land;
  • EK1 (p73) – field corner management in grassland outside LFA;
  • EL1 (p78) – field corner management in the LFA


For field corner management on arable land, the area of the corner must not exceed 1ha (the rules only allow one patch per 20 ha of arable land too), and in the case of EF1, the land must have been in arable cropping throughout the five years up to the start of your ELS agreement.


If you choose this option you are required to establish a grassy sward. This can be by natural regeneration or sowing. You can cut as frequently as you want in the first 12 months to encourage grass to tiller. After this the sward may only be cut once during the rest of the 5-year life of the scheme.


Only spot treatment or weed wiping is allowed to control injurious weeds.


Although the payment is the same, you can sow a mixture of fine grasses and wild flowers. If you do this, you are encouraged to cut annually, once the plants have set seed – simulating hay meadow management.


A field corner or mid-field patch could be entered instead for one of several options that provide a particularly rich source of food for wildlife. EF2 to EF5 (page 57 – 60 in the handbook) – wild bird seed mixture and pollen and nectar mixture – provide more benefit to wildlife than any other option in ELS. The high number of points they attract reflect this and the fact that they are more costly to manage, particularly as they have to be re-established several times during the 5-year life of your agreement.  


Field corners in grass, (EK1 and EL1), must be no more than 0.5ha in size with no more than one patch for every 10ha of land eligible.

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Look back at other frequently asked questions here.

  • David Middleditch is Senior Environment Consultant with ADAS. With a background in agriculture and conservation advice, David manages the DEFRA conservation advice programme for ADAS