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Make the most of SFI, say farming advisers

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Frontier’s commitment to sustainability is woven into all of our operations and the work we do with farmers, suppliers and partners.

At the very heart of this is sustainable crop production; working with farmers to support long term, viable farming systems that increase the longevity of arable businesses, encourage high-quality food production and help our farmed landscape to become more resilient.  

The implementation of a sustainable crop production system requires a holistic approach to overall farm management. What works on one farm may not always be right for another.

We have created a crop production sustainability model that covers seven focus areas: soil health, crop growth cycle, environmental management, compliance, carbon management, digital solutions and regenerative agriculture. By exploring the ways they are linked, we help farmers to take a considered, whole-farm approach to achieving sustainability objectives.

Find out more at

Recent announcements on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship gave more detail on the newest options.

Kings Crops sustainable farming adviser, Fiona Tweedie, and technical adviser, Jim Egan, share how farmers can get the best from these schemes.

“Defra announced which SFI standards will be released in 2023,” explains Fiona.

“These include standards for hedgerow management, integrated pest management, nutrient management, arable and horticultural land, improved grasslands and low-input grasslands.

“Unlike the soil standards, there is a payment rate attached to each action in the new standards. We’re waiting on more details, but this may mean farmers can choose which they are most interested in,” she continues.

“Some of them resemble familiar Countryside Stewardship options but could have more flexibility.”

One criticism has been low payment rates compared to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), but both Jim and Fiona stress the schemes cannot be compared.

“The BPS is a direct support scheme that is declining,” says Fiona, “while the SFI offers farmers and land managers the chance to review what they’re already doing in their main farming system and be paid for implementing more sustainable farming practices, within a three-year agreement.”

Fiona Tweedie

Fiona Tweedie © Frontier

Jim agrees: “My advice to farmers is: Don’t sit on your hands and wait for something else to come along; now is the time to make the most of the new scheme.

“This isn’t about rewilding or not producing food. It’s about being effective, efficient and productive.

“You’ll never replicate all aspects of BPS, but you will make your farm more efficient and be rewarded for your commitments as a result.”

It appears the SFI criteria is of a ‘lighter touch’, driven instead by outcomes rather than individual activities.

Farmers will be able to try something for a year – for example 10ha of companion cropping – then expand it once they have more confidence.

Jim Egan

Jim Egan © Frontier

The new standards are also underpinned by action plans, with farmers rewarded for taking professional advice and establishing a baseline before undertaking new actions going forward.

“Doing things on the back of professional guidance should make activities more efficient and reduce risk,” says Fiona.

Tim Parton, who farms 300ha of mixed arable cropping in south Staffordshire, currently has SFI soil options running alongside the Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship scheme.

“The SFI is an easy application process and is extra income,” says Tim.

“We all need to be accountable for the food we produce and eat, and the SFI is a great stepping-stone to start that journey.

“Frontier’s MyFarm tool is ideal for recording and demonstrating what we’re doing too. I just take a picture, which is timed and dated, and then save it to the platform.

More information about Frontier’s sustainable crop production services can be found at