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).

Where to use this option

It is available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier, on whole or part parcels in rotation on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland
  • bush orchards

Where this option cannot be used

  • On land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)

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


You must:

  • make sure blocks or strips must be at least 6m wide and a minimum of 0.4ha in size - the maximum individual plot size is 5ha
  • establish as soon as possible after harvest and before 15 September, in year 1 and year 3 of your agreement by sowing a seed mix containing a minimum of six flower species and six seed-bearing crops
  • make sure seed mixes contain a maximum of three of the following cereal crops:
    • barley
    • oats
    • rye
    • triticale
    • wheat
  • re-sow autumn sown bumblebird mix plots that fail to establish
  • 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
  • keep until 15 August in the second summer after sowing
  • re-establish the mixture every 2 years to maintain seed and flower provision

For advice on what to sow and re-sow refer to the Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option section.

Keeping records

You must keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • photographs of the blocks or strips

You can locate the following options and supplements on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following advice is helpful, but they are not requirements for this item.

Pick the right location

This option works well on most soil types and, as with conventional crops, there will be more seeds and flowers produced where you locate it 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 50kg per ha and keep for 2 years before re-establishment.

Crop kg/ha Flower species kg/ha
Winter triticale 20 Alsike clover 0.6
Winter wheat 20 Bird’s-foot trefoil 0.6
Fodder radish 1 Common vetch 4
Gold of pleasure 2 Crimson clover 3
Kale 2 Lucerne 0.6
Winter linseed 5 Phacelia 0.6
    Red clover 0.6
Total 50kg/ha Total 10kg/ha

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.

Further information

See the Mid Tier or Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 28 April 2020 + show all updates
  1. The Requirements, Keeping records and Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option sections were updated yesterday

  2. This page has been updated

  3. From 1 January 2019, this option cannot be used on land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

  4. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  5. First published.