Improving your Score. Improving your Payment – Peatlands

What can you the farmer do right now, this summer that would improve your score on your bog and heath fields? Well the time may be short but there are things that you can do right now that will make a real difference. First remove small self-sown conifers. Leave larger plants >1m or so until the Autumn, they might be used by nesting birds during the summer. But dealing with the seedlings any time you see them is always worth it.

Seeds blowing in from nearby forestry plantations often get established on the bog. If allowed to develop they can have a very negative impact on the habitat. Individual conifer trees provide a vantage point for Grey Crows, from there they can see Meadow Pipits and other ground nesting birds going in and out of their nests. Once detected the nest is doomed, the crows will gladly rob it of eggs or chicks. While a Hen Harrier will make a spirited defence of their nest, they cannot be there all the time and the Crow or other predator will not forget. Other birds like Curlew, Golden Plover, Red Grouse or Meadow Pipits have no chance at all.

Large numbers of conifers will shade the bogs surface, bogs are naturally open places and the plants that grow there are used to having a lot of light, some of them will not so well under the shade of a canopy. The conifers also have a drying  effect on the bog. Some of the rain that falls on the site will never make it to the bogs surface. It will evaporate from the leaves of the trees. Much of the water that does hit the ground will be sucked up by the trees roots, overall the effect, particularly in summer is to remove water from the bog. Over time this can contribute to a lowering of the water table, air replaces water near the surface and the peat itself will start to decay. Of course this can be caused by other things too but conifers on the bog definitely contribute.

The presence of self-sown conifers will reduce your score by 1/10. Getting rid of the m let s you hold onto points that you earned elsewhere. As peatland fields are on average a lot larger than grassland fields this can make a big difference to your payments. The other quick win is in relation to damaging activities, in particular dumping. Waste materials dumped on the bog will reduce your score by up to  -3/10 points for very serious dumping, but even small-scale problem will hit your score by -1/10.

So if you pull/ cut all the small conifer plants and remove waste materials you are up 2/10 straight away. A lot of the other issues on the scorecard may take time to address but you can deal with these now, particularly where the conifers are small, and the dumping is limited.  If this brings you from a score of 6 to a score of 8 it is worth €95  per ha. On a 10 Ha that is €950 this year and next. If these extra two points bring you from  a score of 3 to a score of 5 the effect is even more pronounced. A score of 3 earns nothing, a score of 5 earns €275. On a 10 Ha bog that is worth €2,750 or €5,500 over the first two years of the scheme.

Dealing with these now before your fields are assessed will make a big difference to your payments in the first two years of the scheme.