Main authors: Berit Hasler, Ingrid Nesheim, Morten Graversgaard, Susanne Klages, Doan Nainggolan, Claudia Heidecke, Luke Farrow, Isobel Wright, Gerard Velthof, Sandra Boekhold
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Hasler, B. et al. (2021) Identification of cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection in agriculture. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 6.4R 55 pp


Contents table
1. General use of policy instruments
2. Policy instruments and governance regimes used for catch crop implementation in 6 FAIRWAY case studies

1. Policy instruments

In addressing challenges and barriers for promoting catch crops, cost effectiveness of policy instruments needs to be addressed in addition to the more technical social planner approach, as farmers’ implementation is important. Here we are using catch crops as an example, other measures will face the same type of barriers, but might also introduce others.

Catch crops have been implemented with many types of instruments in European policies to reduce environmental pollution from agriculture; as part of the greening requirement of the CAP, as an AES measure and as part of national policies to achieve the requirements of ND and WFD.

D64R fig02
Figure 2

Netherlands and Belgium have the highest catch crop coverage as share of the agricultural land, followed by Denmark and Germany. The share is low in a large number of other countries.

In the survey by Smit et al (2019) , the farmers in the 4 countries Spain, Netherlands, Romania and France were asked about whether the uptake of the measures were mandatory or voluntary. Almost 75% of the adopters of catch crops or cover crops answered that the implementation was mandatory, and only 20% voluntary. The schemes mostly referred to were CAP Greening and AES, the Dutch policy on derogation mixed with the Nitrate Directive m and APIA which is part of the AES. 40% of the adopters in the survey answered that they do so to fulfill the Ecological Focus Area obligation (EFA) in order to receive subsidies, and 38% that they grow the catch crops to fulfil EFA but also for other reasons. The EFA is therefore a significant reason for the cultivation of catch crops among the adopters in the JRC survey (Smit et al 2019).

2. Policy instruments and governance regimes used for catch crop implementation in 6 case studies

Six different countries/regions (Denmark, England, Germany, Netherlands, Northern Ireland and Norway) are included in a comparative analysis of the use of policy instruments and governance approaches to implement catch crops, to derive and exemplify potentials and barriers for cost-effective management.

Overview of policy mechanisms

Table 3.4 Catch crops regulations and policies of case study countries

Type of policy mech. Gov / policy mech. / country Denmark Germany Norway Netherlands England
Economic incentive General subsidy catch crop / area EFA catch crops (EU CAP1) EFA catch crops (pillar I CAP), AES (pillar II CAP) ND: Regional Environmental Program (RMP) EFA catch crops (Pillar I CAP) EFA (pillar I CAP), (RPA, 2019). (RPA, 2018) Voluntary option in AES Pillar II, compulsory once enrolled
Subsidy for seed   Drinking water cooperation DWC Voluntary targeted catch crops (federal state and regional specific)     Some DWC
Subsidy for establishment   Drinking water cooperation DWC Voluntary targeted catch crops (federal state and regional specific)     Some DWC
Subsidy for N mineral soil analysis   Drinking water cooperation DWC Voluntary targeted catch crops (federal state and regional specific)      
Compulsory / mandatory Specific for vulnerable areas EFA catch crops (EU CAP2), Targeted catch crops; Livestock catch crops Mandatory catch crops in NVZs (Fertilization Ordinance/ND3) Vulnerable Zones Drinking Water Company   Nitrates Directive (ND)4  
Agricultural practice specific Livestock catch crops     ND7  
Farm percentage specific EFA catch crops (EU CAP5), Livestock catch crops3 EFA   EFA catch crops EFA catch crops, but catch cover crops do not need to be the mechanism selected
Advisories, information as mechanism Public (P), Private -public (Pr-P) , private (Pr) National level (material / information camp. / direct advisory) National level (The Danish Agricultural Agency): M Public 6,7(BZL-Bundesinformationszentrum Landwirtschaft) and private (e.g. top agrar online)8 Information material (home page); (P, ) Pr. Information material; P (Wageningen Research9) Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (P Levy Board) Natural England
Regional level (material / information camp. / direct advisory) National level (Danish AA) M Federal State/Chamber of Agriculture Lower Saxony (LWK): website10 Bluebook for Lower Saxony11 Information material; (home page) Pr. Information Campaign, (Pr) Direct advisory (Demonstration as part of the EU Rural development plan); P. Information campaign (water quality in agricultural regions); P Water companies (Pr-P), catchment advisers (P), NIAB, commercial advisers (Pr)
Local level (material / information camp. / direct advisory) Private actors (agricultural advisory system12): M, C, DA Public (LWK) and private actors (private consultants, state financed, organized by NLWKN13) DWC (e.g. OOWV14) Direct advisory: Public some municipalities (P) and Pr   Direct advisory and water companies
 Direct advisory (regional level) Private actors (agricultural advisory system6) Public and private actors, see above P Commercial private companies, often related to seed companies  

1Agricultural agency, 2020 (
2Agricultural agency, 2020 (
4Silage maize on sandy and loess soils; From 2021, also for potato on sandy and loess soils in the southern part of the Netherlands
5Agricultural agency, 2020 (
6Bundesinformationszentrum Landwirtschaft. Zwischenfrüchte: Ein Gewinn für Betrieb und Umwelt:
7Lütke Entrup,N.; Bodner, G.; Hötte, S.; Kivelitz, H.; Laser, H.; Stemann, G. Zwischen- und Zweitfrüchte im Pflanzenbau. 149 p. Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung. Bonn, Germany.
8Mund, F.; Bröker, M. Problemlöser Zwischenfrucht? Top agrar/top agar online:
9Wageningen Research with information on the growth of cover crops
10Zwischenfrüchte. Landwirtschaftskammer Niedersachen.
11Wahl, H.; Flassig, D.; Knigge-Sievers, A.; Kühling, G.; Berechnungsgrundlagen für Ausgleichsleistungen des Erntejahres 2018/19 gemäß §93 NWG und für freiwillige Vereinbarungen (Blaubuch). Landwirtschaftskammer Niedersachsen, Oldenburg, Germany. (calculation of subsidies for crops cultivated in water abstraction areas in Lower Saxony, 2019)
12SEGES, 2020 (
13Gewässerschutzberatung. Niedersächsischer Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschut
14OOWV Geschäftsbericht 2018. 44 p. OOWV, Brake, Germany.

Specific details about policy mechanisms in six case study countries

For specific details of policy instruments and governance regimes used for catch crop implementation in six case study countries see

Country Case study
Denmark »Island Tunø: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection and
»Aalborg: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection (duplicate articles)
England »Anglian Region: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection
Germany »Lower Saxony: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection
Netherlands »Overijssel: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection and
»Noord-Brabant: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection (duplicate articles)
Northern Ireland »Derg catchment: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection
Norway »Vanjsø: Cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection

Comparison and case conclusions

As can be seen from the detailed country descriptions, the policies and plans regulating catch crops include both mandatory and voluntary approaches in many of the countries. Even though the number of regulatory approaches raise complexity in the management and also for the farmers, it appears that the uptake and regulation specific barriers are smaller in the countries/regions where several approaches are applied, compared to countries where only mandatory approaches are in place. We do not have evidence from farm surveys on how the regulation is perceived which could be important for the understanding of how the different combinations work. This is relevant for further research. Table 3.5 compares the country assessments of barriers and potentials as perceived by farmers.

Table 3.5. Comparison of country cases: DK, EN, DE, NL, NI and NO

  Denmark (DK) England(EN) Germany (DE) Netherlands (NL) Northern Ireland (NI) Norway (NO)
Barriers Catch crops establishment can be difficult if irrigation not possible. The timing of sowing – Farmers are requesting more catch crops species / varieties. Farmers are requesting catch crops species that grow over winter. Some catch crops species can be vulnerable to pests Risk of more weeds Some risk of yield effects from field experiments Costs of seeds and seeding Non-frost persistent catch crops may cause nitrogen loss Farmer perceived lack of UK-specific research on costs and benefits of catch crops, cover crops. Catch crops establishment in wet winters and on heavy soils. Catch crops termination in wet winters and on heavy soils. Timing of catch crops destruction and cash crop establishment. Failure to manage catch crops in accordance with EFA regulations. Other greening options, e.g. buffers and hedges are experiences as easier. Costs of seeds versus lack and delayed benefits. Lack of knowledge by farmers, agronomists. Fear (risk?) of non-compliance due to poor weather conditions. Loss of glyphosate could reverse engagement rates. Integrated pest management challenges of green bridge effect. Risk of competition between catch crops and main crop (if dry weather). Catch crops produce additional organic matter, which can store water for main crop in spring. Dry seedbed in autumn results in low germination rate. No winter frost results in green catch crops in spring causing challenges for main crop seed preparation. Strong winter hardy catch crops can result in need for special soil cultivation. Uncertainty of catch crop effects to decrease nitrate leaching as nitrogen uptake of catch crops in the second half October is small. Time issues sowing. From Smit (2019) survey apparent that most adopters in the survey after sow the catch crops, i.e. late in the season, and that they harvest them late. Lack of country specific research on Catch crops suitable to climate and to the local environment. Short growing season High total rainfall cause land to be less trafficable. Regulations specifying specific dates are not suited to local agricultural management operations; need to be relaxed compared to English model. Lack of financial incentives Lack of knowledge. CC growth is poor if too dry or too wet Risk of reduced yield Risk that the CC species will be weeds Costs (seeds and equipment for seeding) Behavioral barriers – some farmers dislike changing management practices Farmers renting land tend to invest less CC. Part time farmers – less time for farm work, only essential practices may be prioritized. Uncertainty of benefits of CC, and delayed win-win CC benefits. Complexity of management practices for best effect and low farmer costs.
Potentials High economic compensation levels Agricultural advisors to provide information on benefits Win-win effects for the amount of organic matter and positive effects for soil fertility. Increased climate gas (N2O) emissions Win-win effects of catch crops for: soil structure, soil erosion control, water infiltration. Reduced use of chemical fertilizers, herbicide and fuel use. Increased interest in regenerative agriculture and improved soil structure. Catch crops are easily integrated in common cropping patterns and practices. From the Smit (2019) survey it was clear that the farmers (adopters and non-adopters) know the catch crop cultivation (and cover crops), The JRC survey in Smit et al 2019 also indicate a positive effect of catch crops perceived by the adopters, i.e. the monetary benefit outweighed the costs in terms of lost yields. A driver for the establishment of catch crops / cover crops is the need for over-winter fodder for livestock. Farmers’ motivation and interested in managing nitrogen leaching. Make available suited financial incentives Win- win effects of catch crops for: soil heath – improved soil structure, reduced erosion, reduced phosphorus leaching, reduced climate gas emissions. Farmer interest in regenerative agriculture, innovative practices Different types of advisories to improve farmer knowledge and competence on the use of catch crops and the effects of catch crops.



For full references to papers quoted in this article see



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