SFI opens up nutrient management options

Environment and climate
Claire Robinson

Claire Robinson

Senior Countryside Adviser


Input prices, including fertiliser prices, have been on a rollercoaster in the last couple of years. With this in mind, it’s a good time to review your nutrient use. The NFU's Claire Robinson takes a look at how the SFI can give you the opportunity to try something new.

SFI provides an annual payment (NUM1) to get an adviser under the Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (a ‘FACTS qualified adviser’), to help you review your current nutrient use and the needs of your farm.

Together you can identify opportunities for increasing nutrient efficiency. If you are FACTS qualified, you can do your own plan to meet the scheme requirements.

Everyone knows that legumes can capture nitrogen, reducing the need to apply fertiliser to the field. Legumes also benefit soil structure.

SFI can pay for two SFI actions introducing (or maintaining) legumes to your farming system. On improved grassland, you can introduce a legume and get paid £102/ha (NUM2), or introduce a legume fallow on arable land for £593 /ha (NUM3).

The legume ley could be a clover ley. Defra does not spell out how much clover to include in the seed mix or how much it wants to find at a field check.

If it did do this, it would create another black and white rule which could trip people up, leading to repayments. If you considering a clover ley, weed management does need thinking about as there are not many clover safe herbicides.

The legume fallow in SFI is similar to the Countryside Stewardship option AB15. As well as improving soil health the flowers in spring and summer will support farm wildlife and pollinators. To secure the benefits it is normal practice to have this option in place for two years. It would be very difficult to demonstrate delivery of the environmental outcomes required where the option is in place for less than a year.

The legume fallow seed mix must contain six flowering species including legumes. The area cannot be used for grazing and you cannot apply manure, fertilizers or pesticides (except for spot treatment of certain weeds). Once established you are only allowed to cut for blackgrass, or other weed grass, control.

Historic features

If your land has historic or archaeological features on it, you need to generate an SFI HEFER Historic Environment Farmed Environment Record.

Where features are present for each action, there may be additional considerations or restrictions.

You can have legume fallow (NUM3) on areas identified provided you avoid deep rooted legumes. It is not possible to claim legume leys (NUM2) on HEFER areas. The NFU is in discussion with Defra on the two different approaches. Legume leys are excluded because it is assumed there is not a plough line.

The wider offer

Across SFI there are other actions that support nutrient management. Improving soil health naturally supports nutrient management. Winter cover crops on arable land (SAM2 at £129/ha) and herbal leys (SAM3 at £382/ha) are just two examples.

Tried and Tested

Tried & Tested is a nutrient management tool created for the farming industry, by the industry. You may find it helpful to read the Tried & Tested Nutrient Management Plan guidance for a step-by-step guide on creating farm nutrient plans. It also includes a template. 

The Defra guidance does not set out a standard format for the nutrient management plan (NUM1).

Improved grassland

Improved grassland in SFI can be temporary or permanent pasture. In SFI Defra defines it as being improved by one or more of the following activities:

  • regularly re-seeding
  • regularly applying fertilizer
  • blanket herbicides applications to treat weeds
  • maintaining drains
  • taking conserved forage as silage
  • haylage or hay more than once a year.

Improved grassland will usually have a high cover of ryegrasses and white clover, with a low cover of wildflowers and sedges.

Cross compliance

Cross compliance captured mainly existing legal requirements. These legal requirements continue when BPS finishes in December 2023.

Nutrient management actions:

Code SFI Action Payment / Year

Nutrient Management assessment and plan

  • With FACTS advice produce and annually update a nutrient management plan

Legumes growing during spring and early autumn (improved grassland)

  • e.g clover in a grass sward
  • rotational

Legume Fallow that flowers during late spring and summer (arable)

  • Sow a mix of 6 flowering species including legumes
  • Rotational


NFU members, join our Environment and climate community to comment

This page was first published on 21 November 2023. It was updated on 15 December 2023.


Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query someone from NFU CallFirst will contact you. If needed, your query will then be passed to the appropriate NFU policy team.

You have 0 characters remaining.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.