The European Commission has published updated greening rules which will take effect on 1 January 2018. The changes include a complete ban on the use of Plant Protection Products on Ecological Focus Area (EFA) Fallow Land, EFA Catch and Cover Crops, and EFA Nitrogen-Fixing Crops. The ban will apply from the time that the crops are sown (even if this is prior to 1 January 2018) until harvest, and also applies to seed dressings.

As part of crop diversification, areas containing small areas of different crops grown next to one another can be declared as ‘mixed crops’. Individually, these areas would otherwise be too small to claim but can be claimed as one ‘mixed crop’ area.

The EFA option for hedges has been extended in definition to include trees in a line, however the EFA value will remain the same (each metre of length equals 10 square metres of area for EFA). The definition of EFA buffer strip options has also been expanded in definition to include field margins. The minimum width of 1 metre remains and the EFA value will stay the same for field margins as it currently is for buffer strips (every metre in length equals 9 metres of area for EFA).

EFA catch crops must be maintained for a minimum of eight weeks beginning 20 August 2018 until at least 14 October 2018. The period for EFA cover crops remains the same: 1 October to 15 January of the following year.

If claims are made on EFA nitrogen-fixing crops, in addition to pure stands of a nitrogen-fixing crop you will be allowed to use mixtures of different nitrogen-fixing crop species, or mixtures of nitrogen fixing crops and other crops (if over 50% consists of nitrogen-fixing crops). If you plan on sowing 2018 EFA nitrogen-fixing crops in autumn 2017, this more-flexible rule is applicable.

To gain our advice on the issues in this article or any other rural planning and development matters, call Richard Edge or Alex Orttewell on 01935 852170 or email