More than 10,000 farmers have signed up for new environmental incentives, says the government - but industry leaders have called for more clarity on recent upgrades.

Defra announced the milestone in applications for its improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), which opened in September.

The department says one in eight eligible farmers have now applied for the scheme, part of a new system of green payments being introduced while the EU's system of land-based subsidies is being phased out after Brexit. 

The scheme pays farmers to "deliver tangible environmental benefits alongside food production". For example, as of January, Defra says 174,000 hectares of arable land is now being farmed without insecticides, and almost 15,000km of hedgerows are under management. 

Defra announced a major upgrade to the scheme in January, including the launch of up to 50 new "actions" and a 10pc average increase in payment rates.

Last week, farming minister Mark Spencer encouraged more farmers to join the scheme while speaking at the Norfolk Farming Conference.

This week, he added: "The SFI has something on offer for every type of farm business, so it’s pleasing to see the scheme proving popular with farmers across England. 

"For those who have not yet applied, I encourage you to take a look at how the scheme could work for your business so you can join the thousands of other farmers already getting paid."

National Farmers' Union vice president David Exwood said he was “encouraged to see such positive engagement from the farming community with SFI”, adding that it was important for all farmers to be able to access the offer.

“But we now need the detail behind the new SFI actions announced in January, such as support for precision farming and uplands and moorlands, and a clear timeline for the application process," he said. "This will provide further clarity and allow farmers and growers to put together a comprehensive agreement for their farming businesses."