AB16: Autumn sown bumblebird mix

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the autumn sown bumblebird mix option.

How much will be paid

£550 per hectare (ha).

If used as Ecological Focus Area (EFA): £146 per ha.

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel


Only on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland
  • bush orchards

Where this option cannot be used

  • where evidence or records exist for important arable plants (Plantlife IAPA classification 4 and above – see Appendix II, page 19). These records can either be historic (within the last 40 years) or from recent arable plant survey results

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides important food resources for farmland birds and a range of nectar feeding insects, including butterflies and bumblebees, on arable and mixed farms.

If successful there will be:

  • an abundant supply of small seeds during the winter months
  • farmland birds such as tree sparrow and corn bunting eating these seeds
  • an abundant supply of pollen and nectar-rich flowers between early and late summer
  • pollinating and beneficial insects including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies using these flowers


  • establish a mixture of the flowering and seed bearing plants specified in the “What to sow” section as soon as possible after harvest and before 7 September, in year 1 and year 3 of the agreement
  • where the chosen mixture fails to establish, re-establish it using the plants in the “What to sow” section
  • make sure blocks or strips are at least 6m wide and at least 0.4ha - the maximum individual plot size is 5ha
  • top the established mixture between mid-February and mid-March in the second spring after sowing, to promote legume flowering during early and mid-summer
  • return the option area to the arable rotation from 15 August in the second year after establishment
  • to maintain seed and flower provision, re-establish the mixture every 2 years

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the blocks or strips

The following options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

Pick the right location

The Plantlife Important Arable Plant Areas (IAPA) handbook referenced above scores individual species; if there are records of plants which score 4 or above this option cannot be used on that location.

This option works well on most soil types and, as with conventional crops, there will be more seeds and flowers produced where it is located on better ground. Ideally, pick sheltered sites that face south or west for maximum benefits to pollinators.

It also works on heavier soils where spring-sowing of winter bird food plots is difficult.

Avoid sites with high weed burdens to reduce competition from aggressive weeds such as thistles, blackgrass and sterile brome.

Size of blocks or plots

Sow larger plots as they are easier to manage and provide food for seed-eating farmland birds longer into the winter. Creating wider, bigger blocks also helps insects to move to safety when neighbouring crops are treated.

What to sow

Sow a mixture in the autumn based on the suggestions below, at an overall seed rate of around 30kg per ha and retain for 2 years before re-establishment.

Bird and insect plant species Proportion by weight Bird and insect plant species Proportion by weight
Winter triticale 18% Kale 5%
Winter barley 18% Phacelia 5%
Fodder radish 15% Common vetch 5%
Crimson clover 15% Common or black knapweed 2%
Birds toot trefoil 10% Rough hawkbit or wild carrot 1.50%
Gold of pleasure 5% Ox-eye daisy 0.50%

When to sow

Establish the mixture as soon as possible after harvest in year 1 and year 3 of the agreement (ideally by 1 September).

Plots can receive 50kg per ha of nitrogen in the first spring after establishment to help increase seed production in the following winter.

When to cut

Cut a few centimetres below the tops of the flowering plants in the spring of the second year to remove any overwinter seed plants. This allows flowering plants to develop with less competition.

The aim of this option is to provide an abundant supply of small seeds and an abundant supply of pollen and nectar-rich flowers, and this cannot be achieved if the option area is grazed.

Return the area to crop rotation

The option area returns to the farm rotation on 15 August, which allows time to incorporate any legume biomass for healthier soils before drilling the next crop.

If a following spring crop is planned, the legume mix can be left in the ground until Jan/Feb/Mar of the crop sowing year to maximise the nutrient and soil conditioning benefits of the sown bumblebird plants.

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