Farmers are being urged to update their Rural Land Register maps on an ongoing basis, rather than treating it as an annual job.
The Rural Payments Agency has revealed it is going to start updating maps more frequently using aerial photography and data supplied by Ordnance Survey.
But the RPA is also urging farmers to change the way they think about mapping.
Most farmers only update their maps when they submit their Single Payment Scheme application form and the RPA wants to encourage a “cultural change”.
“We want to get to the point where farmers alert us at the point that changes occur,” said RPA stakeholder manager Simon Lunniss. “This means the RLR becomes the authoritative source of information.”
The RPA has confirmed plans to implement a more proactive programme of “land change detection”, using aerial photos supplied to it on a rolling basis.
While the RPA has a steady flow of aerial photo and Ordnance Survey updates coming to it, traditionally they have not been used to update the RLR.
“It has been updated from two sources,” said Mr Lunniss. “One is when farmers submit an RLE1 form and the second is changes picked up through inspections – either by someone walking the farm or using remote sensing.”
The intention is to use the aerial shots and the mapping updates supplied by the Ordnance Survey to help identify whether there have been changes on the ground that need incorporating into RLR maps, said Mr Lunniss.
The system has already been trialled with a few hundred farmers in south-west England and now will be rolled out on a gradual basis.
During the trial, two different approaches have been taken, said Mr Lunniss. If it was clear from the photos what the change was then the map would be updated and then sent to the farmer to check if it was correct.
If the situation was more ambiguous, then the RPA would telephone the farmer first to discuss the issue.
Mr Lunniss said the agency now planned to roll out the system to a further 1,000 farmers.
“This is in everyone’s interests to make everything as up to date as possible,” he said.