AB8: Flower-rich margins and plots

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the flower-rich margins and plots option.

How much will be paid

£539 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

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

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland
  • bush orchards

Where this option cannot be used

  • Adjacent to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) or other botanically valuable sites as identified on the Environmental Information Map
  • On land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)

How this option will benefit the environment

Flower-rich grass margins or plots provide important habitat and foraging sites for invertebrates (including wild pollinators) and birds.

If successful, there will be:

  • an abundant supply of pollen and nectar-rich flowers throughout the summer
  • pollinating and beneficial insects including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies using these flowers
  • farmland birds such as yellowhammers foraging within or on the edges of the margins and plots
  • annual production of flowers for the length of the agreement

Requirements

You must:

  • establish flower-rich margins and plots by sowing a seed mix which contains a minimum of 4 grass species and 10 flower species between 1 March and 15 September
  • sow the flower species component at a minimum seed rate of 2 kg/ha with no individual flower species exceeding 25% of the total flower species component by weight. The grass component must not exceed 90% of the total seed mix by weight.

In the first 12 months after sowing you are allowed to regularly cut to help the sown species to establish.

You can find more details on what to sow in the Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option section.

When flower rich margins and plots are fully established (typically from the second spring after sowing) you must manage as follows:

  • if plant growth is more than 15cm in height before 31 March, cut to achieve a plant height of between 5cm and 10cm from 1 April
  • cut or graze 90% of the margin/plot area each year between 15 August and 31 October to leave a plant height of between 10cm and 20cm - leave 10% of the area uncut or ungrazed
  • always remove or shred cuttings to prevent weed ingress and patches of dead material developing

Keeping records

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

  • seed invoices
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • stock records to show grazing activity on parcels
  • photographs of the margin or plot

We may ask to see these at any point during your agreement, this could be as part of an administrative check or during an inspection.

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

You cannot use this option adjacent to SSSIs or other botanically valuable sites, as there is potential for contamination of natural plant communities with the sown species. Avoid fields (or parts of fields) in such locations.

Use lower yielding areas if they have a sunny aspect, or face south or south-southwest. Avoid planting under overhanging trees, next to tall hedges or on land facing north or east. Leave access to surrounding crops to allow for management.

Block and plot sizes

Wide margins and big blocks let insects move to safety when you are spraying fields. Spacing 5 patches of 0.5ha evenly within 100ha meets the food needs of many pollinators.

What to sow

The seed mix should contain at least 4 grass and 10 flower species such as those listed in the table below (other species not listed here can also be included):

Grasses Flower species
common bent agrimony
creeping bent bird’s-foot trefoil
crested dog’s-tail common knapweed
quaking grass common sorrel
rough-stalked meadow grass common vetch
sheep’s fescue cowslip
slender red fescue field scabious
smaller cat’s-tail greater burnet
smooth-stalked meadow grass greater knapweed
sweet vernal grass hedge bedstraw
yellow oat-grass kidney vetch
  lady’s bedstraw
  meadow buttercup
  meadow crane’s-bill
  meadow vetchling
  musk mallow
  ox-eye daisy
  pignut
  ribwort plantain
  rough hawkbit
  salad burnet
  self heal
  tufted vetch
  wild carrot
  wild marjoram
  wild red clover
  wild thyme
  yarrow
  yellow rattle

Sow at 15-20 kg/ha. The lower seed rate is appropriate on light/medium soils and the higher seed rate appropriate on heavier soils.

Existing flower-rich plots and margins

Use existing suitable flower-rich plots or margins instead of re-sowing, provided they offer a variety of flowers that deliver a rich supply of pollen and nectar during the summer.

When to sow

To meet option requirements, establish the mix in spring or autumn of year 1 of the agreement.

Controlling weeds

Top emerging flowers and weeds at least 3 times in year 1 for spring sowings and at least twice in year 2 for autumn sowings. Regular topping prevents weeds smothering the slow-growing flowers so that all sown species establish successfully and toppings can be left.

Before the beginning of April each year make sure vegetation is short enough to allow flower species to grow without competition from dominant grasses. Cut and remove summer growth between 15 August and 31 October to help reduce soil fertility and boost flower numbers in subsequent years.

Always leave 10% of the option area uncut or ungrazed to provide overwinter nesting and safe refuges for pollinators and other invertebrates.

Remember to retain flower-rich margins and plots until at least 31 December in year 5 of the agreement.

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 and Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option sections were updated yesterday

  2. This page has been updated.

  3. The Requirements and Keeping records section of this page have been updated.

  4. 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).

  5. Updated for 2017 applications.

  6. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  7. First published.