Participation in agri-environmental schemes such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) play a valuable role by rewarding farmers for having a positive impact on the environment by adopting sustainable farming practices, and the establishment and maintenance of wildlife habitats. There are also an increasing number of private schemes where farms can get paid for looking after nature via Biodiversity Net Gain or carbon payments.
These payments are an important supplement to the income of many farms. However the associated work of sticking to such programmes and maintaining the records required to show compliance is enough to get even the most calm of farmers pulling their hair out. In a survey of 646 NFU members, 76% said they had concerns about managing ongoing Countryside Stewardship Scheme obligations (source). Navigating the application process is just the start. Once a management agreement is in place you must ensure that compliance is maintained and can be evidenced.
- Remembering what management options are where
- What are the requirements for managing those options
- Recording evidence in case of inspection
This article outlines how you can use fieldmargin to help with mapping out environmental stewardship focus areas and then how you can keep records of management such as establishment, inputs used, grazing and keep photographic evidence.
“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 tape measure. 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
Read how Deepdale Farm have navigated transitioning to agro-environmental farming and used fieldmargin in the process here.
There are various government subsidy environmental stewardship schemes available for farmers around the world, these include:
- United States: The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) pays farmers to convert environmentally sensitive land to conservation cover to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and provide wildlife habitat.
- United Kingdom: The Countryside Stewardship scheme provides funding to farmers and other land managers to improve the environment through activities such as planting trees, creating new habitats for wildlife, and improving water quality.
- Canada: The Canadian Agricultural Partnership provides funding for farmers to adopt practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve soil health, and protect water resources.
- Australia: The Environmental Stewardship Program pays farmers to protect and improve biodiversity on their properties by restoring and managing native vegetation, and conserving habitats for threatened species.
- New Zealand: The Sustainable Farming Fund provides funding to farmers for research and on-farm projects that promote sustainable farming practices and environmental stewardship.
For more information you should speak to your local farming advice bodies.
There are also increasing numbers of private projects offering payment for Biodiversity Net Gain or carbon sequestration.
How to use fieldmargin for environmental stewardship
You can use fieldmargin to help with the planning, management and recordkeeping for your stewardship and environmental management schemes by:
🗺️Mapping out conservation or stewardship areas using sub-fields and features
🗒️ Sharing management requirements so that everyone has the right information
📋 Keeping management records and recording inputs used for options like low fertilizer use
📸 Maintain photographic evidence to illustrate how you have managed environments using located notes with photos
🐑 Log grazing dates and rest periods for areas with requirements for low stocking densities or restrictions on when you can graze
Convert paper maps into digital maps that can be accessed anywhere
Go from this
This process should be done on the web app to access all of the sub-field drawing tools and also because the larger screen and accuracy of a mouse will make this easier.
If you haven’t already, start by mapping out your farm’s fields and any other permanent features such as trees or farm infrastructure.
We have made this process quicker by adding options to import your field boundaries. You can do this using your existing shape files or kml files of fields, import from My John Deere, or use your field boundaries that are stored by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to instantly set up your fields. We also have an auto-boundary tool available for some regions which means that you can choose the center point for a field and then the boundary is detected from satellite imagery.
There are two ways that you can map options from here. For areas which are divisions of fields, for example if you are leaving a margin around a field, you can use sub-fields. For options on other parts of the farm or that are points or lines (like hedges) you can draw these out using features.
Field use names and feature types are both completely free-form for naming so you can set up anything that is relevant for your system.
fieldmargin calculates the length and area of shapes that you draw so you will have this information easily accessible for reporting.
Here is an example of how you can divide up a field using sub-fields. Here we added a margin but it only goes part of the way round the field so we used the slice tool to cut it up and merge part of it into the main field.
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 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. You can add the note location either by attaching it to a field or by placing it as a location marker on the map. You can also quickly find a particular one using the search bar or from the history of that sub-field. You can set due dates for work and tag people in your farm to send them a notification.
Often you will need to keep records of how an area has been managed which must be provided when you have an inspection or as audit information for things like carbon emissions. For farms in England this is becoming even more important with the new ELMS Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme with requirements such as records of soil testing and addition of organic matter for the soils standard.
Using fieldmargin you can easily make record work done and key information, while you are in the field. For example:
Field operations actions and dates
Use field jobs to record when you completed certain actions that are required or that have to be completed during a given time window using Field Jobs. These can be used for any job such as planting, mowing or applying inputs.
For schemes where you have to record nutrient management and fertilisers used you can use fertilizing jobs. You can set the nutrient content of the fertilizers (these could be inorganic or organic such as manure) that you are using on your farm so that you can track applied quantities of NPK and other micronutrients. This way as well as having a record of what has been applied when you can show compliance with the quantity of nutrients that may be applied.
You can keep records of when you have done tests and the results using monitoring sites or notes. You can even upload soil test results to fieldmargin as pdfs so that they are stored with your other records.
As well as logging data for your records you can add photos onto notes or Field Jobs to provide visual evidence. For example you might need a photograph to prove that a nectar mix you planted was drilled and that it established, to prove management requirements were followed at the right time or that the option was present.
If you have restrictions which mean you must be below a certain stocking density or that an area may only be grazed on certain dates, you can use fieldmargin’s livestock management tools to quickly and easily maintain these records.
You can set up livestock herds which have the type and number of animals for all the livestock on your farm. As you record where they are grazing fieldmargin automatically records the entry and exit dates for when they grazed field as well as how many animals there were.
Are you interested in using fieldmargin on your farm? It’s free to get started and make an account.
You can find out more about our plans and pricing here.
If you have any questions or need help getting started you can email us at email@example.com