SB4: Chemical bracken control

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the chemical bracken control item.

How much will be paid

£170 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this item

  • Available for Higher Tier
  • Whole and part-parcel
  • Only in combination with a land management option

The most common such options include:

LH1: Management of lowland heathland

LH2: Restoration of forestry and woodland to lowland heathland

LH3: Creation of heathland from arable or improved grassland

UP1: Enclosed rough grazing

UP2: Management of rough grazing for birds

UP3: Management of moorland

WD1: Woodland maintenance payments following woodland creation

This supplement can also be used to control bracken on other options, such as on dry grassland, woodland (including the creation and maintenance of new woodland) or sand dunes.

How this item will benefit the environment

It is for chemically controlling bracken. This will restore or maintain high value natural habitats and their associated wildlife, protect archaeological features and help maintain or enhance the landscape’s character.


Agreement holders will need to agree with Natural England or, in woodland, the Forestry Commission, a specification for the work, including:

  • the use of asulam or glyphosate to control bracken, providing this is within the approval for the product at the time of application

Keeping records

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

  • any consents or permissions connected with the work
  • receipted invoices or bank statements where a receipted invoice is unavailable
  • copies of the Implementation Plan or Feasibility Study, if one exists

Please see the record keeping and inspection requirements as set out in the Higher Tier manual for more detail.

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them with the claim:

  • photographs of the completed work

The detailed requirements for this item will be tailored to the Higher Tier site. Applicants should discuss and agree these requirements with their adviser.

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this item

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

Bracken control

If the application is successful one of two approaches will be followed depending on the size and complexity of the bracken problem. There is no fixed threshold, but Natural England will help with the choice.

Large sites

On larger sites, particularly where major habitat restoration is involved, a Natural England approved Implementation Plan or Feasibility Study will be needed. This will include:

  • areas to be controlled
  • methods of control
  • follow up treatments to control re-growth
  • any risks to sites of archaeological or ecological importance, soil erosion risks or effects on the landscape (short and long term)

Small sites

On smaller, less complex sites an Implementation Plan or Feasibility Study may not be needed. On such sites a simple plan may suffice, one that includes a map showing areas to be treated and dates of control.

Environmental concerns

Make sure that the planned bracken control has a minimal negative effect on other environmental interests on the site. In general, chemical control causes less disturbance to archaeological sites, ground nesting birds and invertebrates than mechanical control. But it will kill other species of fern and may be more damaging to other plants around the site.

All herbicide applications (including aerial application) must follow the law and relevant codes of practice. Natural England’s bracken control guidelines should also be followed.

Make sure any relevant consents are in place before carrying out the work. This includes consent from the Environment Agency to spray near a watercourse.

If any areas are missed they will need to be sprayed in the following year.

Site regeneration

As the site regenerates, control any bracken regrowth or weeds such as nettle, thistle, dock or ragwort. More effective bracken control may result if combined with appropriate grazing, where possible, due to the effects of trampling.

Further information

Further information is available from:

Read more information about Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 29 March 2016 + show all updates
  1. Information updated for applications in 2016

  2. First published.