ACRES Scheme Ireland

How does ACRES scheme work?

What is the ACRES Scheme?

The Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) is Ireland’s flagship scheme to encourage farmers to help address biodiversity decline. This 5-year scheme kicks off in early 2023 and will provide farmers with an income linked to the outcomes of the actions taken.

Applications open in October 2022 with an application deadline of December 2022. Applications were made through qualified Farm Advisors and the scheme was already well oversubscribed as of January 2023 showing an appetite for planting and biodiversity-enhancing measures in the farming community.

When is the Application Deadline for the Acres Scheme?

The Deadline for Applications is December 2022 and applications must be made through Farm Advisors.

What can be included in the ACRES Scheme: 

Planting a New Hedgerow

This measure aims to enhance the visual appearance of the countryside, support biodiversity
on farms and protect water quality.

Requirements

  1. Plant by 31 March 2024, min continuous length 10m &  max length for payment is 750m.
  2. Must be marked on the map, & not be placed against an existing hedgerow, stone
    wall, or under treeline/woodland.
  3. The new hedge must consist of at least 5/metre in a double staggered row
    with a mix of at least 3 species from the Hedgerow species (Table 1. below). No one
    species must make up more than 85% of the total.
  4. Plants must be of Irish Origin or Irish Provenance & from DAFM-registered professional operators.
  5. All plants have plant passports, retained for the duration of the
    contract.
  6. All newly planted hedgerows in a grass or tillage field must be protected from livestock.
  7. Grass & weeds are controlled annually.
  8. Failed or dead plants must be replaced in the following planting season

Table 1. Hedgerow Species for ACRES Scheme Planting – PLANTING A NEW HEDGEROW

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa
Dog Rose Rosa canina
Guelder Rose Viburnum opulus
Hawthorn/Whitethorn Crategus monogyna
Hazel Corylus avellana
Holly Ilex aquifolium
Spindle Euonymous europaeus
Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus
 

Table 2. Tree Species for ACRES Scheme –  PLANTING A NEW HEDGEROW (0.6 – 0.9 metres high)

Bird Cherry Prunus padus
Crab Apple Malus sylvesteries
Goat Willow Salix caprea
Grey Willow Salix cinerea
Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
Wild Cherry Prunus avium
Hawthorn/Whitethorn Crategus monogyna
Irish Whitebeam Sorbis hibernia
Sessile Oak Quercus petraea
Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur

2. Planting a Traditional Orchard

To support biodiversity and help ensure the survival of traditional Irish apple varieties.

Requirements

  1. Min 0.05 hectares with 10 traditional fruit trees from the approved list before 31 March 2024.
  2. The location is marked on the map submitted.
  3. Fenced off from livestock, grazing inside the fence with sheep is permitted provided that no damage is caused to the trees.
  4. Trees spaced at least 5 metres apart.
  5. Plants must purchased from DAFM-registered professional operators.
  6. Must have plant passport retained for the duration of the contract.
  7. Pesticides not permitted except for the spot treatment of noxious & invasive
    weeds.
  8. Grass & weeds must be controlled around the trees until they
    become established.
  9. Failed or dead trees must be replaced during the next planting season.

Table 3. Tree Species for ACRES Scheme – PLANTING TREES IN RIPARIAN BUFFER ZONES

Common Name Scientific Name
Alder Alnus glutinosa
Silver Birch Betula pendula
Downy Birch Betula pubescens
Pedunculate Oak Quercus robus
Goat Willow Salix caprea
Grey Willow Salix cinerea

Table 4. Tree Belts for Ammonia Capture from Farmyards
To capture ammonia emissions from livestock housing or uncovered slurry stores by directing
the emissions into the tree belt and through the main canopy.

Tree Species for the Main Canopy
Common Name Scientific Name
Alder Alnus glutinosa
Silver Birch Betula pendula
Downy Birch Betula pubescens
Hazel Corylus avellana
Holly Ilex aquifolium
Crab Apple Malus sylvesteris
Scots Pine Pinus sylvesteris
Wild Cherry Prunus avium
Bird Cherry Prunus padus
Sessile Oak Quercus petraea
Pedunculate Oak Quercus robus
Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
Goat Willow Salix caprea
Grey Willow Salix cinerea
Tree Species for the Backstop
Scots Pine Pinus sylvesteris
Holly Ilex aquifolium

Requirements

  1. This action can be delivered on a full or split LPIS parcel. Where the action is selected on a split LPIS, it must be digitised and marked on the map submitted.
  2. The minimum depth of the shelterbelt is 30 meters. The minimum parcel area is 0.18
    hectares and the maximum area for payment is 0.5 hectares.
  3. Planting of the tree belt must be completed by 31 March 2024.
  4. The tree belt must be fenced off to protect from livestock at least 1.5 meters out from perimeter trees.
  5. Purchased trees must be a minimum of 60cm in height and planted at a minimum of 3
    meter spacing between each tree.
  6. A minimum number of trees is 1/10m2 of the tree belt area.
  7. Plants must be of Irish Origin or Irish Provenance and purchased from DAFM-registered professional operators.
  8. Plant passports are retained for the duration of the contract.
  9. Plant at least 3 species from the approved list & not more than 25% to be Scots Pine.
  10. Grass and weeds must be controlled around the trees annually.
  11. Planting cannot take place within the vicinity of overhead wires, 20 m of railway, or 60 m of neighbouring dwellings. The max distance from the livestock shed to the tree belt is 50m

5. Tree Planting

To encourage the planting of trees on farms where they will have multiple benefits while
offering flexible planting options to suit the holding.

Requirements

  1. Planting completed by 31 March 2024.
  2. Select the LPIS parcel(s) for the tree planting action by drawing one point on the
  3. map. Then enter the number of trees that will be planted on the chosen parcel(s) in
    the quantity box provided.
  4. The min planted is 100 where this action is taken as a priority action and 10 where it is taken as a general action. The max is 300 trees.
  5. Do not plant in the vicinity of overhead wires, within 20m of railway lines, 60m of a neighboring dwelling house.
  6. Plants must be of Irish Origin or Irish Provenance and Purchased from DAFM registered professional operators.
  7. Plant passport retained for the duration of the contract.
  8. Min of 60cm in height.
  9. Plant at least 3 native tree species, not more than 25% to be Scots pine.
  10. Maintain at least 4 metre spacing between each tree.
  11. Fit each tree (except Scots Pine) with a staked tree shelter, minimum 75cm in height, and fence trees off with appropriate fencing.
  12. If using individual barbed protectors for parkland or rows, the staked tree shelter and fencing is not required.
  13. Grass and weeds must be controlled around the trees annually.
  14. Failed or dead trees must be replaced during the next dormant season

Table 5. Tree Species for ACRES Scheme – TREE PLANTING

Common Name Scientific Name
Alder Alnus glutinosa
Silver Birch Betula pendula
Downy Birch Betula pubescens
Hazel Corylus avellana
Holly Ilex aquifolium
Crab Apple Malus sylvesteris
Scots Pine Pinus sylvesteris
Wild Cherry Prunus avium
Bird Cherry Prunus padus
Sessile Oak Quercus petraea
Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur
Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
Goat Willow Salix caprea
Grey Willow Salix cinerea

Conclusion

There are many actions that can be taken, and actions taken are pre-approved through Application to the ACRES Scheme.

Applications are carried out by qualified Farm Advisors and letters of approval from the Department of Agriculture are required before plants can be purchased or work undertaken.

The Department of Agriculture’s Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme
(ACRES) Specification for Tranche 1 was published in November 2022 and is the main source of information for the criteria, guidelines, and recommendations for the scheme.

We also found a very good Questions and Answers for the ACRES Scheme in a Farmers Journal article published in June 2022.