What to expect when applying for SFI nutrient management actions

Wednesday 14.02.2024 , News

The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is a sweeping initiative covering several different areas that are relevant to different farmers in England.

At Germinal, we have previously outlined the SFI actions for soils (SAM1-3), given the benefits for grassland farmers. This time, we are looking at the SFI actions for nutrient management (NUM1-3), which focuses on building mixtures with leguminous crops.

Please note that while all information is accurate at the time of publishing, the SFI scheme can be subject to updates. We will monitor the situation and update accordingly.

NUM1: Assess nutrient management and produce a review report

As with SAM1-3, an initial assessment is required for NUM1-3, followed by a report. If successful, farmers can receive “£652 for the assessment and review report per year”, according to the latest SFI handbook.

Defra’s aim is for farmers to assess their nutrient use with the goal of managing this more efficiently, with organic sources of crop nutrition also relevant.

NUM1 is a three-year SFI agreement for all agricultural land located below the moorland line. Rather than include specific areas of land, the assessment and review report is required to cover all relevant areas of a farm.

To comply with NUM1, you need to arrange a farm visit with a member of the BASIS Professional Register who is qualified in accordance with the Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS).

NUM2: Legumes on improved grassland

Claimants are encouraged to grow legumes from spring to early autumn to manage nutrient efficiency, protect surface soil, and generate root growth. This is to maintain soil structure and support soil biology while minimising soil erosion, runoff, and nutrient leaching.

You are eligible for NUM2 if your land is classified as temporary grassland (TG01) or improved permanent grassland (PG01). Despite being a three-year agreement, SFI lets you move your land parcel to other eligible areas of your farm.

Note: land with Scheduled Monuments or peaty soil is not eligible.

SFI requires that you establish one or more legumes in the first 12 months of your agreement. Here are the legume options recommended in the SFI handbook:

  • Alsike clover
  • Red clover
  • White clover
  • Bird’s foot trefoil
  • Lucerne
  • Sainfoin

In NUM2, legumes can be established by reseeding with grass or by overseeding in an existing grass sward. Successful applicants will receive £102 per hectare per year.

NUM3: Legume fallow

Compared to NUM2, NUM3 is more complex and this is reflected by a payment of £593 per hectare per year for successful applicants.

Fundamentally, this action aims to produce a legume fallow with flowering plants from late spring through summer, with no grazing permitted after establishment. For grazing, SFI recommends applying for SAM3 instead.

NUM3 is also intended to help manage nutrient efficiency and improve soil health while producing food for farmland wildlife, including birds and pollinators.

A range of land is eligible, including arable (arable crops, leguminous and nitrogen-fixing crops, FA01, and TG01) and permanent crops (TC01).

NUM3 is like NUM2 in that land can be rotated across eligible parcels, while peaty soils will be excluded.

For this action, SFI requires that you sow a seed mixture with at least six flowering species, of which legumes must be included. Here are several options:

  • Alsike clover
  • Bird’s foot trefoil
  • Black medick
  • Common vetch
  • Lucerne (though not on land identified in HEFER)

According to the latest SFI handbook, non-leguminous flower species can feature in the mixture, as can grasses such as cocksfoot or timothy to help with blackgrass control.

A legume fallow is typically established the second spring after seed is sown. From this point, you cannot graze it with livestock, cut it (except to control grass weeds), use fertilisers or manures, apply pesticides (except herbicides for treatment of injurious weeds and non-invasive species).

Capturing evidence

For NUM1-3 and other SFI actions, applicants are advised to keep evidence proving eligibility. P156 (Annex A) of the latest SFI handbook offers advice on capturing photos that are suitable for validation.

Legume seed experts

Backed by research from Germinal Horizon and industry experience, we are skilled in formulating highly effective legume seed mixtures. Contact our experts below to discuss your requirements for an SFI nutrient management mixture.

William Fleming, Area Sales Manager (Scotland, Northeast England)

T: 07971640428

E: william.fleming@germinal.com

Paul Morgan, Area Sales Manager (Southern England, South Wales)

T: 07713 878069

E: paul.morgan@germinal.com

Harley Brown-Keech, Area Sales Manager (Central England, North Wales)

T: 07880469645

E: harley.brown-keech@germinal.com