River Stour phosphorus reduction scheme 

Project background 

Wessex Water is working with farmers in the River Stour catchment to reduce phosphorus (P) run-off from farmyards, tracks and fields by 2.55 tonnes per year by 2025. This P offsetting initiative forms part of a wider programme of water company investment where P removal is being installed at Wessex Water water recycling centres (sewage treatment works) across the catchment. This programme has already resulted in approximately six tonnes less P entering the River Stour each year and by 2025 around a further 190 tonnes will have been removed in this way. In rural catchments such as the Stour, wastewater treatment is only one source of P to the river, with agriculture being the other main contributor. By working with farmers to reduce P loadings from agriculture, the overall improvement in river water quality will be greater than if only P loadings from wastewater treatment are reduced.

River Stour Phosphorus Reduction Scheme Flier Summer 2022

What sort of funding is on offer? 

The project launched in early 2022 and includes a grant scheme offering financial support and advice to farmers for adopting practices that reduce P inputs, prevent soil erosion and buffer watercourses from P pollution. A range of measures that reduce P loss to water are available for grant funding in 2022. Payment rates and measure specifications are as follows:

Watercourse fencing to exclude livestock

£8.00/m as a one-off payment. Replacement of existing fencing and fencing on very extensively managed grassland are not eligible. Additional payments may be available for taking intensive grassland out of production by erecting a fence further into the field. Funding for installing access gates in new fences and alternative water supplies may also be available upon request. Please contact the project team for further information.

Stour watercourse fencing spec

Cover crops after combinable crops

£80/ha as a one-off payment plus £20/ha supplement for establishing before 1 September. Key requirement is to establish cover crop by 15 September.

Stour cover crops after combinable crops spec

Cover crops after maize and other late-harvested crops

£80/ha as a one-off payment plus £20/ha supplement for establishing before 1 October. Key requirement is to establish cover crop by 15 October.

Stour cover crops after maize spec

Undersowing grass into maize

£100/ha as a one-off payment. Key requirement is to inter-row drill grass into maize by 10 July.

Stour undersowing grass into maize spec

Arable reversion to zero-input grass

£500/ha per year for a for a 2 ½ or 3 year agreement running from Autumn 2022 until either Spring or Autumn 2025. Key requirement is not to use any fertiliser or manure. No grazing is allowed, except light grazing by sheep overwinter if desired.

Stour arable reversion to zero input grass including buffer strips spec

Arable reversion to 3-year fertility building legume fallow

£500/ha per year for a 3 year agreement running from after harvest 2022 to 15 August 2025. Establish legume mix immediately after harvest, cutting regularly in first year and at least once between 1 March and 15 May in years 2 and 3. You can also include grasses such as cocksfoot, perennial ryegrass or timothy in seed mix to help smother blackgrass and other competitive grass weeds. Key requirements are not to use any fertiliser or manure or to cut or graze.

Stour arable reversion to 3-year legume fallow spec

Arable reversion to low/medium input grass

£400/ha per year for a 2 ½ or 3 year agreement running from Autumn 2022 until either Spring or Autumn 2025. Multiple cuts for hay/silage are permitted. Key requirement is not to use any phosphorus fertiliser or manure. Nitrogen (up to 100kgN/ha/yr) and potash fertiliser applications are permitted however. No grazing is allowed, except light grazing by sheep overwinter if desired.

Stour arable reversion to low-medium input grass spec

Arable reversion to 3-year herbal ley

£400/ha per year for a 3 year agreement running from 1st September 2022 until 31st August 2025. Summer grazing by cattle and sheep and multiple cuts for hay/silage are permitted. Limited manure applications are permitted. Do not apply any nitrogen fertiliser. Phosphorus and potash fertiliser and lime applications are permitted, but only to maintain soil P&K indices of 2. Only light grazing by sheep is permitted over-winter.

Stour arable reversion to 3-year herbal ley spec

Riparian buffer strips

£500/ha per year for a 2 ½ or 3 year agreement running from Autumn 2022 until either Spring or Autumn 2025. Key requirements are not to use any fertiliser or manure. No grazing is allowed.

Stour arable reversion to zero input grass including buffer strips spec

Arable reversion in a time of high grain prices? 

Even in times of high grain prices there will still be arable areas on most farms that are too low-lying, too wet, too steep, too awkward to access or too low-yielding to make arable cropping worthwhile, particularly at times of very high input prices. These areas may represent 5-10% of a farm’s arable area, or less. These are the areas that we encourage farmers to put forward for the arable reversion and buffer strip options in this scheme.

Arable reversion
Photo credit: Creedy Associates

Habitat creation options

Expressions of interest are also encouraged in creating leaky runoff ponds, constructed farm wetlands to treat field runoff and ditch/drain flow, phosphorus removal structures for field drains and ditches, hedgerow creation and tree-planting. These proposals will be eligible for capital grants that cover between 50% and 100% of the upfront capital design, establishment, and construction costs. For enquiries regarding these types of measure please contact the project team.

Compatibility with other land-based payment schemes

Apart from the Basic Payment Scheme, fields that are funded by any other scheme (for example Countryside Stewardship, other water company schemes or carbon offsetting agreements) are not eligible for River Stour Phosphorus Reduction Scheme funding. However, Defra have announced that farmers will be able to enter land into the Sustainable Farming Incentive 2022 if that land is in a private sector scheme (e.g. the River Stour Phosphorus Reduction Scheme). They will review this position annually. For further information, visit the gov website.

Funding limits and application scoring criteria

Applications will be scored and funding awarded on a range of criteria including the predicted amount of phosphorus prevented from entering watercourses by implementation of the measure (per application and per unit area/metre), likelihood of the applicant meeting scheme requirements (as set out on this project website and in the example project agreement below) and the location of the measure in relation to specific Wessex Water water recycling centres in the scheme area.

Annual funding limits per farm business for each type of measure are:

  • Watercourse fencing to exclude livestock: 625m / £5,000 per farm business per year
  • Cover crops after combinable crops / maize and undersowing grass into maize: 100ha / £10,000 of total cover crops per farm business per year
  • Arable reversion to zero input grass, low/medium input grass and to 3-year legume fallow: 10ha / £5,000 per farm business per year
  • Arable reversion to low / medium input grass: 10ha / £4,000 per farm per year
  • Riparian buffer strips: 5ha / £2,500 per farm business per year

Applications for amounts greater than the above limits will be considered in certain situations where the environmental benefits (in terms of reduced phosphorus loading to watercourses) can justify the additional expenditure.

In the event of high demand for funding for certain types of measure, further limits may be placed on the amount of funding awarded per farm and funding may be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis.

Please note that the River Stour Phosphorus Reduction Scheme has a fixed annual budget and Wessex Water reserves the right to decline applications.

For more information and advice on the likelihood of your application being successful please contact the project team at the earliest opportunity to avoid disappointment.

Eligible areas

1. This map shows the eligible areas for the following types of measure

  • Cover crops after combinable crops and maize
  • Undersowing grass into maize
  • Arable reversion to zero input grass, low/medium input grass and to 3-year legume fallow
  • Riparian buffer strips
  • Hedgerow creation
  • Tree-planting
  • Watercourse fencing to exclude livestock
  • Runoff ponds, constructed farm wetlands to treat field runoff and phosphorus removal structures for field drains and ditches.


2. This map shows the eligible areas for the following types of measure:

  • Watercourse fencing
  • Runoff ponds, constructed farm wetlands to treat field runoff and phosphorus removal structures for field drains and ditches.

If more than 50% of an individual field is within the eligible area it is likely to be eligible for funding. Please contact the project team with any eligibility queries.

Application process

  1. Check that your measure location is located within the eligible area for that type of measure
  2. Read the measure specifications to find out what is required and what the terms and conditions are
  3. Contact the project team with any queries or to request an advice visit
  4. Fill out either the application form (word document) or application form (pdf document) for printing and send to the project team by Wednesday 31 August 2022 (or earlier for undersowing maize).
  5. Applications will be processed during September 2022 and applicants informed of the outcome by Tuesday 9 September 2022.
  6. Successful applicants will be emailed a project agreement by Thursday 15 September 2022 which will need to be signed and returned to the project team by Thursday 29 September 2022.

Measure implementation and payment process

Successful applicants will need to:

  1. Implement the measure by the date shown in the measure specification and stated in the project agreement
  2. Provide the project team with the farm information needed to calculate the reduction in P loss achieved by implementation of the measure by the date stated in the project agreement
  3. Send the project team evidence of implementation by the date stated in the project agreement
  4. Send the project team an invoice for the sum stated in the project agreement by 31 January 2023 (and annually thereafter for multi-year agreements). VAT should be added to invoices.

Wessex Water standard company payment terms are end of the month of invoice plus 30 days. For example, an invoice dated in January will be paid at the end of February.

A member of the project team may arrange an appointment (with reasonable notice) to visit the farm to view the measure.

Please note that you will be required to complete a Wessex Water supplier application form in order to receive payment.

 

Project agreements

You can download this example of a project agreement.

General terms and conditions will be the same for each project, but project-specific conditions will be as per the specifications above. 

As part of the project agreement you will be required to sign a declaration that the fields covered by the agreement have not been the source of a pollution incident in the past five years and that that they are being farmed in a way which is compliant with relevant legislation including Nitrate Vulnerable Zone rules, Farming Rules for Water and SSAFO rules (Storage of Slurry, Silage and Agricultural Fuel Oils):

  • To support and inform the above declaration, it is expected that successful applicants will complete the Environment Agency’s Agricultural Compliance Tool (ACT) (when publicly available – this is expected to be in autumn 2022), submit it to Wessex Water in support of the declaration of compliance (who will hold it in confidence) and address any actions identified by the ACT.
  • For longer term (>5 years of payments) and higher-value agreements (>£5000 total annual payments), agreement holders are required to complete the ACT annually for the duration of the agreement, submit it to Wessex Water in support of the declaration of compliance (who will hold it in confidence) and address any actions identified by the ACT.
  • Assistance in completing the ACT may be available from the project team.

Project team contact details

For more information on any of the measure options, or to request an advice visit, please contact:

Email and telephone are the project team's preferred methods of communication, but any post should be addressed to:

  • River Stour Phosphorus Reduction Scheme, Wessex Water, The Admiralty, Mill Street, Corfe Mullen, Dorset, BH21 3RQ