Payments for Northern Ireland's pilot protein crops scheme are set to begin next week.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has announced that payments totalling £208,655 will issue to all eligible applicants under the Protein Crops Scheme on October 18 – the first day of payments for 2021.

Figures obtained by Agriland earlier this year showed 95 Northern Ireland farmers planted protein crops as part of the pilot.

The Protein Crop Scheme aims to reduce the region’s reliance on imported soya and also encourage best practice in crop rotation, pest management and crop diversity.

In 2019, 369,000t of imported soya was used in feedstuffs manufacturing alone in Northern Ireland. Adding other high-protein animal feeds brings this total to over half a million tonnes.

Launched earlier this year, the pilot scheme will run for two years, and will offer payments for combinable beans, peas and sweet lupins in Northern Ireland for the purpose of creating a domestically produced source of protein for animal feed, and provide agronomic benefits within arable rotations.

The scheme is expected to create environmental benefits by reducing the need to import animal feed and the associated carbon footprint.

How to join NI’s Protein Crops Scheme pilot

The payment rate for the scheme is £330/ha, with the total area eligible for payment under the Pilot Scheme to be capped at 1,000ha.

If more than 1,000ha are determined as eligible, a linear scaleback will be applied to the determined Protein Crop Payment area to reduce it to 1,000ha. Payment will be made on the scaled-back area.

The minimum area claimed must be at least 0.3ha and applicants may only claim on land planted in protein crops.

Areas of protein crops sown in a mixture with cereals or other crops will not be eligible for the scheme and protein crops declared under the scheme must not be harvested until after July 31.

Applications are now closed for 2021. However, those interested can apply next year using the 2022 Single Application, which will open on March 1, 2022.