Sign saying: "Conservation margin, please keep off."© Tim Scrivener

Farmers have just two weeks to complete mid-tier applications the Countryside Stewardship before the deadline at the end of the month.

The closing date for submitting completed mid-tier applications together with all supporting documents is Friday 30 September.

The number of applicants has increased by 13% this year, with farmers requesting nearly 6,500 application packs, said Natural England.

See also: Rule changes open stewardship to more farmers

Natural England chief operating officer Guy Thompson said the landscape agency had “listened to farmers” and changed the scheme to make it more attractive to applicants.

He said: “With the scheme providing successful applicants with a fixed income for five years, it also makes good business sense.”

Both schemes are competitive and targeted and will fund projects to restore habitats, improve water quality and woodland, reduce flood risk.

Farmers can also opt to protect landscapes and provide year-round food and shelter for pollinators, birds and other wildlife.

Strong farmer uptake

Caroline Drummond, chief executive of the charity Linking Environment and Farming, said she was pleased so many farmers were interested in applying.

“Farmers are voting with their feet and showing their firm commitment to continuing their good work on environmental protection.”

The mid-tier stewardship scheme offers five-year agreements to farmers who agree to implement environmental improvements to the wider countryside.

Alastair Leake, head of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project, said it was important for farmers to remember that applications were competitive.

“It is vital that farmers read the scheme guidance and seek the right advice in order to complete these applications successfully.

“This will make a difference to the final outcome, as well as being better for the environment and British farming. Just don’t miss the deadline.”