1 March 2002

Min-till growers want modulated aid

FARMERS are calling for modulated aid cash to be available for users of min-till techniques.

Benefits such as less soil erosion, more cover for wildlife and less diesel to get crops established all go unrewarded, says FW Farmer Focus writer and Here-fordshire grower Jim Bullock.

"I cannot reclaim modulation money unless I join a Stewardship Scheme, which Im unable to do on rented land." By contrast farmers in Spain, Germany and France can all claim up to £100/ha in environmental aid to ease them into min-till, he says.

That view is backed by farm manager George Hanna, who used to farm in former East Germany. "We entered a five-year contract for non-ploughing and got paid 50DM/ha/year."

There is evidence to support a similar move in the UK, argues the Allerton Trusts Alastair Leake. "We have found landings of endangered birds such as skylarks increase by over four times on min-tilled land in winter."

He hopes to win the backing of the RSPB, which is co-funding a study at Harper Adams looking at the wildlife benefits of ICM techniques. But so far it is sceptical about using public money.

"The whole point of ICM is optimising profits," says agricultural policy officer Sue Armstrong-Brown. "If its right anyway, theres no reason to pay for it."

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