NEW REQUIREMENTS for set-asidewhich see it include temporary grass leys following an arable crop in the past five years, means many English livestock producers are forced to set aside land for the first time this year. Strutt and Parker”s George Chichester answers some key questions on the requirements

Q When does land have to go into set-aside and how much do I need to set aside?

 A The start date was Jan 15. From this date specific areas of land need to be identified as the set-aside area. This is calculated as 8% for land that has had an arable crop in the past five years, even when it is now in grass, or 1.3% for land in a Severely Disadvantaged Area.

Q Does the set-aside area have to be fenced off where it is part of a field?

A No, not according to the requirements, because you could silage the half of the field not in set-aside and leave the part that is in set-aside. But if you graze it you will need a fence at some time.

Q Although a fence is not necessary, would it be wise to fence it anyway?

A When a contractor is used for field tasks, a fence will ensure they don”t put on any inputs – such as fertiliser – which would put single farm payments at risk. A fence will also prove to DEFRA that the area is in set-aside. A fence will add cost, but it could just be a single-strand electric wire.

Q What can I do to the area while it”s in set-aside; can docks or thistles be treated?

A The complete rules on this are published in DEFRA”s guidelines. Basically, you can spot spray specific weeds before April 15 and after that you can field spray weeds. But no fertiliser or pesticides are permitted, except manure produced on the holding. Lime can be spread where you are going to crop the field in the following year.

Q What management is required?

A They key requirement is to mow the area between July 15 and Aug 15. These cuttings must be left on the ground.

 Q When can the area be cut for silage/hay or grazed?

A After Aug 31 the area can be cut or grazed for the farm”s own use, providing the cover has not been replaced. Where it has been replaced it cannot be grazed until after Jan 1.

Full details of the new set-aside regulations are available in a recently published DEFRA Set-aside Handbook and Guidance for England (0845 955 6000).