Farming with the environment through ACRES
Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist, tells us that helping the environment alongside food production on farms is the theme on the Teagasc environment stands at the Ploughing Championships this year, and ACRES can help.
Keith Fahy, Teagasc Advisor caught up with Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist at Ploughing 2022 to get an overview of ACRES.
The new Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) which replaces GLAS and REAP is a five year scheme. Farmers apply for either ACRES Co-operation Project (CP) or ACRES General depending on location on the map below.
Farmers in CP areas can avail of up to €7,000 based on their habitat assessment and a further €3,500 for Landscape Actions (LAs) and Non-Productive Investments. Project teams in CP areas will develop actions in 2023 for farmers, assess commonage for payment and train advisors and farmers in these areas.
Payments are ring-fenced at a score of 8 - €300 per hectare for non-commonage land and €145 per hectare for commonage land. When the land is assessed in summer 2023, payments may be lower and the purpose of the LAs and the NPIs is to improve the score and the payments over time. The habitat is assessed in years 1, 3 and 5 of the scheme with assessment optional in the other years.
These are three categories of farmers with land in CP:
- Farmers who have at least 24 ha of non-commonage forage land or 50 ha of commonage land within the CP area – calculated on full LPIS parcels. Applications are simple for CP farmers who will maximise their potential payments within the CP area
- Farmers with all their land in a CP but less than 24 ha of non-commonage land or less than 50 ha of commonage in the CP area can choose any of three actions on land within the CP at this application stage: Traditional drystone wall maintenance, Low Emission Slurry Spreading or Rare Breeds.
- Farmers with land inside and outside a CP but less than 24 ha of non-commonage land or less than 50 ha of commonage in the CP area. As well as choosing choose any of three actions on land within the CP at this application stage: Traditional drystone wall maintenance, Low Emission Slurry Spreading or Rare Breeds, these farmers can also choose the general actions on their land outside the CP area, and these must be included in the application this autumn.
The ACRES General is similar to GLAS with a few new options and one significant difference for old ‘non-ryegrass’ land for which there is an option to choose Low Input Grassland (LIG) which will be assessed next summer and every two years, with payment based on its biodiversity value. The key decision is whether to choose the action based Extensive grazing at €200 per hectare or choose the LIG with maximum payment of €450 per hectare. Flowery non-ryegrass land will score high, but non-flowery, non ryegrass land can still make €250 per hectare. Up to ten hectares of each can be chosen where farmers have sufficient old ‘non-ryegrass land.
For farms where a payment of €2,283 per hectare is attractive for fencing off 6m their least productive land around the margins of their field – the grass margin action surely must be considered. Any farm can choose to fence off 2,500 m of a 6 m margin @ €1.37 / m giving €3,425 each year for the next five years. After the first year, the margin must be cut during the winter or grazed in the month of September – to maintain as a valuable habitat for wildlife. Narrower margin widths deliver higher payments per hectare but have additional fencing costs.
There are many other actions to consider with some increasing the priority of accessing ACRES. These are 500 m of grass margins for grassland farmers over 130 kgs of N per ha, planting trees for all farmers; Min Tillage (10 ha) Catch crops (6 ha), Over winter stubble (4 ha), Arable margins (500 m),
Actions relevant to specific areas are Low Input Peat grassland around designated raised bogs and specific actions in High status and Vulnerable water areas.
Biodiversity includes the range of native Irish flora and fauna and the habitats in which they exist.
- Biodiversity is in crisis
- Farmland is important for biodiversity
- Cherish our species rich grasslands
- Don’t sow – let it grow. Appreciate what is growing wild - part of our native Irish biodiversity
- Plant new hedges of native species of Irish provenance
- Manage hedges for biodiversity
- Allow individual thorn trees mature within Topped hedges
- Do not top Escaped hedges