AB11: Cultivated areas for arable plants

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the cultivated areas for arable plants option.

How much will be paid

£532 per hectare (ha).

If used as Ecological Focus Area (EFA): £165 per ha.

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel

Rotational

Only on arable land:

  • 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
  • where arable plant records do not exist but the land is part of the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package (see Mid Tier manual section 8.3)

How this option will benefit the environment

It creates uncropped, cultivated areas for a wide range of scarce and declining arable plants, and provides areas of less densely vegetated ground for insects and other invertebrates, and summer foraging habitats for declining farmland birds.

If successful there will be:

  • vulnerable species of arable plants germinating and completing their life cycle, which will increase their populations over time
  • foraging insects such as bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies visiting flowers and the bare ground created
  • declining farmland birds, such as grey partridge and turtle dove, foraging in the arable plant area

Requirements

  • create the fallow margins or plots annually
  • cultivate in the spring between February and April or in the autumn between September and November - work the soil sufficiently to produce a fine surface across the whole area

Do not:

  • disturb cultivated areas before 31 August
  • apply any fertilisers or manures
  • apply any lime
  • use any pesticides, except for herbicides to weed-wipe or spot-treat for the control of injurious weeds, invasive non-natives, nettles or bracken

Keeping records

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

  • records at parcel level of your field operations, including any associated invoices

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

Where sites have important arable plant species present or where they could be released from the seed bank (historic or local records will help identify them), this option can deliver tailored management for them. 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 is available.

The richest areas for arable plants are at the edges of fields, adjacent to old farm tracks and boundary features, so margins up to 6m wide will work best here.

Fields with a long history of cultivation, together with old grass margins that were previously arable, should also be considered.

Some of the more common species of arable plants are good ‘indicator’ species and indicate the potential of an area to hold rich arable flora in the seed bank, so it is important to focus on these sites, as well as those containing the rarest species.

Managing your plots

Rotating the cultivated areas around the farm can help control and prevent a build-up of undesirable weed species.

Varying cultivation timing and depth can also help control undesirable species while providing suitable conditions for germinating arable plants in the spring and autumn.

Topping at a height of around 30cm to prevent seeding of undesirable weed species such as wild oats and creeping thistle is allowed during the growing season, as many of the desirable arable plant species are shorter than this. Where this weed burden develops on more than 40% of the area, targeted broad-spectrum herbicides can be used once annual species have set seed (normally in September).

If grass weeds become a problem, periodically (one year in 3) creating a stale autumn seedbed and cultivating in mid-March can help control them. This is particularly relevant on heavy clay sites. Ploughing can also be useful for controlling grass weeds.

Use this option as part of a sequence of arable options which can occupy the same area of land at different times of the year, such as overwinter stubbles.

Help us improve GOV.UK

Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.