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

£628 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

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

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland
  • bush orchards

You can locate the following options on the same area as these options.

How this option will benefit the environment

Flower-rich grass margins or plots provide important habitat and foraging sites for invertebrates, including wild pollinators such as bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies, and farmland birds like the yellowhammer.

Aims

If you’re selected for a site visit, we will check that delivery of the aims is being met and the prohibited activities have not been carried out. This will ensure the environmental benefits are being delivered.

In year 1, a margin or plot will be established in the spring/summer/autumn. The seed mix will contain a minimum of 4 grass species and 10 wildflower species. The grass component will not exceed 90% of the total seed mix by weight. No individual flower species will exceed 25% of the total wildflower species component by weight.

Once established, the margin/plot will flower throughout the summer to provide an abundant supply of pollen and nectar.

In the late summer / autumn, cutting or grazing the majority of the margin or plot allows for new growth in the spring whilst the remainder provides a refuge for wildlife. Dense cuttings will be removed.

Prohibited activities

To achieve the aims and deliver the environmental benefits, do not carry out any of the following activities.

  • None

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you have not carried out any prohibited activities.

To assist you in achieving the aims and deliver the environmental benefits for this option we recommend that you use best practice.

We recommend that you:

  • sow the seed mix between April/May and early September (mid to late summer is usually the best time to sow wildflowers)
  • sow the wildflower species component at a minimum seed rate of 2 kilograms (kg) per hectare
  • in the first 12 months after sowing, cut the margin or plot regularly to help the sown species to establish
  • cuttings should be removed or shredded to prevent weed ingress and patches of dead material developing

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

  • Cut in the spring (before April) if necessary to prevent grasses smothering the flowering species
  • Cut or graze up to 90% of the margin/plot area each year between 15 August and 31 October to leave a plant height of between 10 centimetres (cm) and 20cm.Leave at least 10% of the area uncut or un-grazed

Keeping records

Where there is uncertainty about whether the aims of the options have been delivered, we will take into account any records or evidence you may have kept demonstrating delivery of the aims of the option. This will include any steps you’ve taken to follow the recommended management set out above. It’s your responsibility to keep such records if you want to rely on these to support your claim.

  • 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

Additional guidance and advice

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

Pick the right location

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.

Avoid very fertile soils and areas infested with injurious weeds such as creeping thistle, docks, nettles and common ragwort.

This option should not be established in field locations known to support important groups of rare arable plants.

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 both grasses and perennial flowering plants, such as:

  • slender red fescue
  • sorrel
  • sheep’s fescue
  • bird’s-foot trefoil
  • smooth-stalked meadow grass
  • ribwort plantain
  • smaller cat’s-tail
  • yellow rattle
  • crested dog’s-tail
  • self heal
  • common bent
  • yarrow
  • sweet vernal grass
  • wild carrot
  • black knapweed
  • lady’s bedstraw
  • meadow buttercup
  • ox-eye daisy

Sow at 20kg per ha to provide enough plants when the mixture is established.

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 late summer / early autumn of year 1 of the agreement.

How to sow

Create a firm, consolidated, clean / sterile seed bed. Wildflower seed is very small so will not germinate if drilled too deeply. Broadcast or trickle the seed on top of the seedbed and roll or harrow to help ensure good seed to soil contact, retain moisture and reduce movement of slugs within the soil profile.

Check for slug damage and control using wildlife-friendly slug bait where necessary.

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 late summer / 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.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

This option can form part of an IPM approach to prevent the establishment of pests, weeds and diseases. If successful, appropriate and within proximity of cropped areas, these may limit the need for the use of Plant Protection Products and enhance wildlife and biodiversity on your holding. Read information on IPM at AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) Integrated Pest Management and LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming).

Further information

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

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 1 March 2022 + show all updates
  1. Additional guidance and advice section updated to remove detail which said you cannot use this option adjacent to SSSIs or other botanically valuable sites.

  2. New payment rate from 1 January 2022.

  3. Additional guidance and advice section updated - this option can form part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to prevent the establishment of pests, weeds and diseases. 'Where this option cannot be used' section has been removed.

  4. 'Air quality' added to Land use.

  5. Option updated for agreements starting from 1 January 2022.

  6. The Requirements and Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option sections were updated yesterday

  7. This page has been updated.

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

  9. 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).

  10. Updated for 2017 applications.

  11. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  12. First published.