They may be some of the most unproductive parts of the farm, but ignoring weed control in the two-metre margins required by cross- compliance isn’t an option.

Advanta Seeds’ Ian Misselbrook says weeds in these margins must still be controlled, both to prevent encroachment into the remainder of the field and in accordance with pernicious weed control legislation.

“Where weeds such as thistles and ragwort dominate, their control is essential to ensuring farmers meet both cross-compliance and other legal requirements.”

The key will be to use spot spray treatments where needed and to plant low maintenance grass species, such as fescues.

“But where weed crops are particularly prevalent mowing may also be an option for some farms.”

Momenta consultant Dave Gardner also advises spot treating weeds rather than removing weeds to avoid interfering with ground nesting birds, such as partridges.

With fertiliser also banned from field margins, Mr Misselbrook says farmers may want to look at using high clover mixes to maximise the amount of nitrogen available to grass crops.

“Although for many units its probably better to sow the same mix as the rest of the field.”

New to cross-compliance legislation for this year regarding two-metre margins is the requirement to look after green cover, so farmers are reminded they can no longer store bales on the margin areas, adds Mr Gardner.

“And from January this year, ditch dredging can no longer be spread on margins on the one-metre strip on the top of the bank,” he says.   
With the threat of cross-compliance breaches and subsequent loss of single farm payment, Mr Misselbrook says it is also essential to ensure spray and fertiliser records are up to date and accurate.

And where the intention is to make silage from fields with margins, Raymond Jones of IGER recommends baling the crop from margins rather than including it in the main clamped crop.

“Crop quality will be lower on these margins due to the reduced inputs they will have received and these areas are also likely to be more stony, increasing risk of damaging forage harvesters.

“Baling the crop will ensure quality in the clamp isn’t compromised by either poor quality grass or the introduction of a range of undesirable bacteria.”

Mr Jones also suggests bales made from margins should receive an extra couple of layers of wrap to ensure they remain airtight and bales aren’t wasted.

“Longer stemmy grass and weeds from these areas are likely to pierce wrapping, so a couple of extra layers, costing about 50p will help reduce risk of spoilt bales.”

When it comes to feeding silage from field margins he advises feeding it to store or dry stock which will be less reliant on high quality silage.

jonathan.long@rbi.co.uk