Participation in agri-environmental schemes such as Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship play a valuable role in establishment and maintenance of wildlife habitats as well as being an important supplement to the income of many British farms. However the associated work of running them is enough to get even the most calm of farmers pulling their hair out. Navigating the application process is just the start. Once a management agreement is in place the real work of ensuring compliance begins. In a survey of 646 NFU members, 76% said they had concerns about managing ongoing Countryside Stewardship Scheme obligations (source).
- Remembering what management options are where
- What are the requirements for managing those options
- Recording evidence in case of inspection
We have spoken to several farmers recently who are using fieldmargin to map out their HLS options and as a record-keeping tool so we have put together a guide on how to start doing this on your farm.
“Using fieldmargin has made everything quicker, We can use fieldmargin to go out and check areas in the field rather than having to use a tapemeasure. Because everyone is on it any queries can be logged then and there rather than waiting until you get back to the farm office.”Kate, Hertfordshire
Convert paper maps into digital maps that can be accessed anywhere
How to digitise agri-environmental agreements:
This process is best done on a desktop rather than mobile as the big screen and increased accuracy of a mouse make mapping easier. If you haven’t already first, map out your fields and any other features that might have management options attached to them such as woodland. We have made this process quicker by adding an option to ‘add from Environmental Stewardship’. If you have participated in ELS or HLS this allows you to select areas that are part of your farm so that all you have to do is split them up into individual fields. You can also import field boundaries that are stored by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to instantly set up your fields.
Next, create feature types for each of the management options on your farm. Mark planned this by listing all of the colours used on his existing map and then assigning them to colours on fieldmargin so he could be sure he hadn’t missed any. Once you have your features types set up you are ready to start drawing. fieldmargin calculates the length and area of shapes that you draw so you can confirm that you have put the correct amount on the map.
There you have it. A digital map of your farm’s agri-environment scheme that allows you to see at a glance what options you have and where wherever you are. You can view specific options by switching them on and off in the layer list. Make sure that you have invited everyone working on your farm so that they can refer to it too and help with recording jobs.
Share instructions with your team
For management options that have complicated requirements that you will need to refer to such as dates off when they can be cut or grazed you can use notes to record this information.
Simply create a note with the management option as the title and then add instructions as comments below. Because notes are attached to a location on the map you can place the note on the feature(s) it applies to, you can also quickly find a particular one using the search bar. You can set due dates for work and tag people in your farm to send them a notification.
Countryside Stewardship has introduced much more emphasis on record keeping which must be provided when you have an inspection. Although the format of the new ELMS scheme are not yet confirmed it is likely that data and accurate record keeping will be even more important. Even if you are under ELS/HLS it is still important to have good records for inspections. Using fieldmargin you can easily make notes of key information, while you are in the field.
- Field operations actions and dates: A record is needed to prove you did not cut the grass or you planted a nectar flower mix during a certain window.
- Photographs: Some options require photographs of the option to prove a mix established, prove management requirements were followed or the option was present. For example, nectar flower mix (AB1) and low input grassland (GS2/5). You can easily attach photos to notes using the mobile or web app.
- Any options with a grazing requirement: Any options that require grazing will require a parcel level grazing record. For example, nectar flower mix (AB1) and low input permanent grassland (GS2/5). You can do this by using a note in each field where this record is required and adding comments (which will automatically be date-stamped) when you move livestock on or off of it.
Interested in using fieldmargin for your agri-environment schemes but need more help? Get in touch and we will be happy to give you further advice.