Just over 800 tillage farmers have applied under the Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM) scheme to date, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

he pilot programme, which opened for applications on March 22, offers payment to farmers for chopping straw and incorporating it into the soil after harvest in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Farmers can opt to chop a minimum of 5ha and a maximum of 40ha; however, the exact number of hectares that will be supported under the pilot will depend on the mixture of crops submitted for the measure.

The scheme provides payment at the rate of €250/ha for those who chop and incorporate oats, rye, wheat or barley into the soil; while farmers who incorporate oil seed rape will be paid at the rate of €150/ha.

Should SIM be over-subscribed, a process of ranking and selection will be applied with applicants placed into tiers based on their 2021 BPS application data. The tiers have been constructed to prioritise entry to those with oats, no or low level of access to on-farm sources of organic manure, and those who are not already engaged with catch crops in GLAS.

While the Department confirmed that just 801 farmers have applied to the scheme up to April 30, Bobby Miller of the Irish Grain Growers’ Group (IGGG) says this figure is “encouraging” ahead of the pilot closing date of Monday, May 17.

Speaking the Farming Independent the Laois tillage and beef farmer said: “The Straw Incorporation Measure is in its infancy and tillage farmers are now getting a chance to study their options for the scheme with final details only being announced during the very busy spring workload on tillage farms where paperwork wasn’t the priority.

“The figures on the number applying to date are encouraging for a pilot scheme. It looks like all those that apply, including those at the lower end of the ratings table, will be accepted at this point.

“I’d encourage those not sure of what to do to apply as you cannot apply past the closing date, but you can change your application after the closing date.

“We would like to think, at this stage, that the SIM will be carried into future years which will aid the agricultural sector in meeting its climate and eco targets. It will hopefully help to increase the tillage area in Ireland and reduce food/feed miles for the country,” Mr Miller concluded.

SIM objective

As many tillage farmers do not have an on-farm supply of organic manures for application to their soils, the chopping of straw in situ is considered a relatively unused method of returning organic matter to tillage soils and improving levels of soil organic carbon and biological activity such as earthworms and soil microbes.

The measure is aimed at supporting tillage farmers to increase soil organic carbon levels by chopping and incorporating straw from combinable crops. This, it is expected will sequester carbon in tillage soils, thereby reducing GHG emissions and furthering improve the environmental sustainability of the sector.

The measure is an agri-environmental and climate measure that will operate during the transitional period between CAP programmes; and is expected to raise awareness amongst farmers and other stakeholders in the tillage sector of the need to “manage and protect” soils.

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