According to preliminary data, 6 800 kilometres of bio-strips have already been created in the first year of the agricultural policy to break up large monoculture fields and create space for biodiversity. This is 32 times more than in the entire previous seven-year subsidy period.
The European Union, in preparing the reform of the EU's current Common Agricultural Policy, agreed to ask farmers to do more to help biodiversity and the soil. They have decided to incentivise them to do so with new subsidies - so-called ecoschemes.
Member States have been given quite a lot of freedom in how they set the rules for eco-schemes. The Slovak Ministry of Agriculture has also decided to use the ecoscheme to tackle large swathes of land and declining biodiversity (the second ecoscheme focuses on improving livestock welfare and promoting pastoralism).
One of the conditions for the new subsidy was the division of large fields into so-called bio-strips. Simply put, these are areas sown with a mixture of herbs and grasses, not for production but to provide food and shelter for animals. At the same time, no chemicals can be used on them.
Conditions for a whole-farm ecoscheme on arable land:
- Respect the maximum land area: 50 hectares outside protected areas and 20 hectares in protected areas,
- Improve soil structure: apply farm fertilisers on at least 25 % of arable land, incorporate straw into the soil, cultivate intercrops,
- Set aside part of the land from production: establish biostrips with a minimum width of 12 metres and keep the land fallow, do not use fertilisers and plant protection products to increase biodiversity.
Farms were able to participate in the strip establishment until the end of May. Prior to their launch, there were doubts about whether there would be interest among farmers in the new subsidy. For farmers, they mean new costs and lower incomes from the loss of part of their production. But early figures show that farm participation is higher than expected. Of all the farms in the subsidy scheme - 16 468 - 8 809, or more than half, have been involved in eco-schemes, according to preliminary calculations. At the same time, given the gradual ramp-up, the ministry expects the whole-farm ecoscheme to cover at least 70 percent of the area for which farmers can claim direct hectare subsidies. However, the results for bio-strips are also very interesting. 1,229 farms have been involved, creating 7,518 bio-strips covering 8,188 hectares.