The deadline for establishing winter bird food plots or strips in the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) is fast approaching on 15 May 2024.

For winter bird food plots, the minimum area that can be sown is 0.25ha, while the maximum is 3ha.

Applicants selecting this measure need to be aware that a 2m uncultivated or unsown zone between the edge of the crop and the field boundary (ie hedgerow, stone wall/bank, stream/drain, etc) must be left.

This 2m uncultivated strip is not required where a mandatory buffer zone already exists for applicable watercourses under GAEC 4.

Strip requirements

For winter bird food strips, the requirement is to establish a 6m- to 8m-wide winter bird food strip along a field boundary.

Only one margin width can be used across the holding and to be eligible for this measure, the minimum continuous length is 10m and the maximum is 2,500m.

Where necessary, the area must be protected from livestock with a fence that is fit for purpose.

Where no fence is required, then the scheme specifications state that the boundary of the winter bird food must be clearly identified with visible posts or markers if no natural boundary exists.

The following mix must be used:

  • At least one or more of these cereals: spring oats, triticale, wheat, barley.
  • At least two or more of the following: linseed, oilseed rape, phacelia, fodder radish, mustard, spring vetch, lucerne, chicory or birds-foot trefoil.
  • Additional requirements

    Once the crop is sown, pesticides are not permitted. The exception to this ruling is that only the spot treatment of noxious and invasive weeds with herbicides is allowed. Pre-sowing weed control is permitted.

    Fertiliser can be applied up to a maximum of half the fertiliser rate for nitrogen and phosphorus on spring oats as described in statutory instrument number 113 of 2022.

    Harvesting of the crop is not permitted and must remain in situ until 1 March of the following year.