How the SFI supports IPM

Environment and climate
Claire Robinson

Claire Robinson

Senior Countryside Adviser

A photo of a ladybird.

Claire Robinson looks at how integrated pest management techniques are supported under the flagship scheme, including (but not only) under its own IPM standard.

IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is about the careful consideration of all available methods of crop protection to prevent or suppress harmful organisms.

It's an approach that can boost sustainability while reducing both environmental impacts and chemical input costs, making the support available to help with the journey under the latest SFI offer a big win-win.

IPM1: Meeting the requirements

Assessing and planning your pest management supports appropriate decisions across your farm enterprise, feeding into crop rotations or cultivation techniques, for example.

Through SFI, you can get support to undertake that planning with a BASIS-qualified adviser. If you are BASIS qualified yourself, you can do your own plan to meet the scheme requirements.

In addition, the IPM templates developed by the industry’s VI (Voluntary Initiative) can be used. These have benefited from NFU input as part of its support for the VI. 

The assessment and plan meet IPM 1 (see table, £989 per year).

Bugs with benefits

Beneficial insects can help to control pests and there is evidence that they can go as far as 20 metres into the crop.

Several options can support beneficial insect populations under the SFI, including pollen and nectar mixes (AHL1, £614 per hectare per year); grassy field corners and blocks (AHL3, £590 per hectare per year, or IGL1, £333 per hectare per year); and grass buffer strips (AHL4 £451 per hectare per year, or IGL3, £235 per hectare per year).

IPM2 (see table, £673 per hectare per year) supports flower-rich grassy areas, with at least 10 wildflowers. It cannot have ryegrass present. This will provide habitat that supports beneficial insects, and pollinators as well.

Companion cropping

Companion cropping has become more common, with farmers trying different approaches in the past few years. Winter oilseed rape has been undersown with clover to improve soil nutrients. Often the clover is destroyed in the spring. Even so, this can count towards SFI action IPM2 (see table) which pays £673/ha. Maize undersown with grass to protect the soil is also eligible, as are trap cropping and inter-cropping.

Defra has also included an insecticide-free option in the SFI offer.

Under the IPM ethos, all crop protection methods should be available for consideration, including insecticides, to control pest outbreaks where necessary and justified.

The SFI is a three-year agreement where you decide up front the area to include. The NFU has questioned what would happen if you entered an area into your agreement and then found you needed to apply pesticides.

Defra’s response has been: ‘This is what we call a change of circumstances. It’s just a question of contacting the RPA as soon as you’re going to need to use the insecticide on that area, notifying them of the area of concern, and they’ll take that affected area out of the agreement for that year and you won't be paid on that area.’


Across the SFI, there are actions that are rotational. To allow you to work with different field sizes it is possible to vary the area of a rotational option year on year. After the first year, you can increase the area of the option, and be paid for it. Equally you can decrease it, as long as it does not go below 50% of the original option area.

For example, in year one you could claim on 10ha of pollen and nectar mix. In year two that could be 5ha and year three 11ha.

The SFI 23 IPM standard

Code SFI Action Payment / Year
IPM1 Conduct an IPM assessment  with BASIS advice and produce an IPM plan; update annually £989
IPM2 Flower-rich grass areas (arable); mix of four grass species (no ryegrass) and 10 wildflowers, rotational £673 / ha
IPM3 Companion crop (arable); includes trap crops, intercropping and undersowing, rotational £55 / ha
IPM4 No use of insecticide (arable); rotational £45 / ha


More on SFI from NFUonline:

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