English farms warned over earlier EFA catch crop deadline

Farmers in England will need to establish catch crops earlier than in previous years if they are being used to meet ecological focus area (EFA) requirements.

Some key dates connected to greening rules and cross-compliance are fast approaching, but care must always be taken to be mindful of differences between the devolved regions.

The Farming Advice Service (FAS) points out in England catch crops grown as an EFA must be established by 20 August (and retained until at least 14 October).

See also: Green scheme rules relaxed as dry spell continues

This is a change from previous years, when catch crops did not need to be established until the end of August. However, it is unlikely to cause much difficulty, with harvest in many regions significantly ahead of schedule.

But different rules apply in other regions, with catch crops not an EFA option in Wales.

In Scotland, to be eligible as an EFA catch crop, the main crop must be undersown with a recognised grass seed mix in the spring.

The FAS is also reminding farmers that the cutting or trimming of hedges of hedgerows will be allowed in fields after 1 August where oilseed rape or temporary grassland is being sown, but only if a derogation has been granted by the Rural Payments Agency.

Farmers without a derogation, or with land being used to grow other crop types, must wait until the general ban on hedgecutting ends on 1 September.

Read the Farmers Weekly guide to key cross-compliance dates by region.