Ireland’s new agri-environment scheme, Results Based Environment-Agri Pilot (REAP), has opened for applications.

The headline figures of a potential €6,300 for participation in the two-year scheme is sure to turn heads, but like with most things, the devil is in the detail.

The main stumbling block for dairy farmers will be to get accepted to the scheme as there are only 2,000 spaces in it.

Applicants are ranked and prioritised based on four factors: farming in a Natura area or ANC, farming in a high- or low-status water quality area and location in Ireland.

The latter two factors are more likely to be the deciding factors towards getting more dairy farmers over the line and into the scheme.

The Department of Agriculture has stated that it wants an even geographical spread of farmers in the pilot programme and to also have farmers at different stocking rates.

As the name suggests, REAP is a results-based programme, so farmers who deliver better environmental results will get paid more money.

There are two main facets to the scheme: low input grassland (LIG) and multi-species leys (MSL). A maximum of 10ha can be enrolled in either measure and farmers can select some of their land for LIG and some for MSL but only up to a maximum of 10ha.

The LIG measures have a higher payment rate than MSL. There are no prescriptive measures around what activities can or cannot be carried out in a LIG pasture. However, the maximum rates of payment will only be drawn down on fields that score highly for ecological integrity – that is have plenty of different plant species in the sward.

The range of payments under this measure is from €0/ha to €400/ha with an additional top-up of €50/ha where a meadow is cut late in the summer.

The MSL option may have more significance for dairy farmers who were considering establishing a multi-species sward anyway.

In many ways, this may be more straightforward than LIG as the payments are based on the number of varieties sown and the number of varieties present in the sward at the time of assessment.

The range of payments here is from €0/ha to €275/ha depending on the ecological integrity of the sward. Additional payments are available for tree and hedgerow planting.

Applications must be submitted through an adviser and that adviser is then responsible for assessing the outcome. The closing date is 10 May.