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

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel

Only on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland
  • bush orchards

Where this option cannot be used

  • 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
  • adjacent to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) or other botanically valuable sites as identified on the Environmental Information Map
  • from 1 January 2019, 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


  • establish a flower-rich margin or plot between 15 March and 31 May or 15 July and 15 October based on the mixture specified in the “What to sow” section
  • if plant growth is more than 15cm in height before 31 March, cut it (and remove if dense) to achieve a plant height of between 5cm and 10cm from 1 April. cut (and remove if dense) or graze 90% of the area between 15 August and 31 October to leave a plant height of between 10cm and 20cm - leave 10% of the area uncut or ungrazed

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to 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

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the margin or plot

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

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 cannot be used on that location.

This option cannot be used adjacent to SSSIs or other botanically valuable sites, so avoid fields (or parts of fields) in such locations, as there is potential for contamination of natural plant communities with the sown species.

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 fields are being sprayed. 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 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. Cutting and removing summer growth between 15 August and 31 October will help reduce soil fertility, boosting 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 manual or Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 17 May 2018 + show all updates
  1. 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).
  2. Updated for 2017 applications.
  3. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  4. First published.